Planning is everything

Fermilab Director
Pier Oddone

Once a year each of the Office of Science laboratories presents their plans for the future to Director Bill Brinkman, Pat Dehmer, the associate directors of the six Office of Science programs and additional DOE staff experts. In many ways Fermilab, as a single-program laboratory, has a simpler presentation to make than some of the other labs: we only have to present a compelling program in particle physics. In other ways our presentation is much more complex. We depend entirely on the health of one program that requires major investments during this time of fiscal austerity. We must convince our important audience that these investments in particle physics pay off, even when measured in comparison with other scientific priorities.

Tomorrow we present our plans. We will describe not only the very exciting program through 2020 that studies the mysteries of neutrinos and looks for signs of new physics through the extraordinary sensitivity of rare processes, but also the long-term future of the laboratory. Our vision for a program beyond 2020 has been anchored on the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment and on Project X. On March 19 we received a letter from Bill Brinkman that stated that LBNE as currently conceived could not be funded within the expected budget envelope for Office of Science and charged us to present a phased approach or alternatives, with physics productivity at every stage. We have answered the charge through the work of the LBNE Reconfiguration Steering Committee, the Physics Working Group, the Engineering/Cost Working Group, and with input from the physics community. At this stage we have prepared an interim report that will be finalized in the next month after further discussions with DOE. On Wednesday we will present three viable options for the first phase of LBNE:

  • Using the existing NuMI beamline in the low-energy configuration with a 30-kton liquid-argon time projection chamber (LAr-TPC) surface detector 14 mrad off-axis at Ash River in Minnesota, 810 km from Fermilab.
  • Using the existing NuMI beamline in the low-energy configuration with a 15 kton LAr-TPC detector underground (at the 2,340-ft level) on-axis at the Soudan Lab in Minnesota, 735 km from Fermilab.
  • Constructing a new low-energy LBNE beamline with a 10-kton LAr-TPC surface detector on-axis at Homestake in South Dakota, 1,300 km from Fermilab.

While each of these options is more sensitive than the others in a particular physics domain, the Steering Committee in its discussions strongly favored the option to build a new beamline to Homestake with an initial 10-kton LAr-TPC detector on the surface. The physics reach of this first phase is very strong; moreover this option is seen by the Steering Committee as a start of a long-term world-leading program that would achieve the full goals of LBNE over time and allow for the most incisive studies of the Standard Model. Over the next few weeks we want to set a clear path forward with DOE so that we can proceed in an orderly way to the next steps in the life of the project, with CD-1 hopefully late this year or early next year.