DOE gives Fermilab’s Mu2e experiment CD1 approval

The Mu2e experiment received CD1 approval from DOE this month. It will look for the rare transformation of a muon into an electron in the absence of neutrinos.

Last week, Fermilab’s planned Mu2e experiment received Critical Decision 1 approval from the Department of Energy, only about a month after the DOE’s initial review.

“I know of no other project that has received sign-off that quickly after review,” said Mu2e Project Manager Ron Ray. He attributed the success of the CD1 review to a high level of support for the project from the laboratory and from the agency.

The Mu2e experiment will make use of the former antiproton source, which will be repurposed into a facility for making muons. The goal of the experiment is to determine whether muons can convert into electrons in the absence of neutrinos.

DOE has five critical decision levels, starting with CD0, which Mu2e received in 2009. DOE makes critical decision approvals following a review by a panel from the DOE Office of Science, led by Daniel Lehman, director of DOE’s Office of Project Assessment. To receive CD1, a project needs to submit a detailed conceptual design report with ranges for possible costs. The price of materials and labor and risk management of the project define those price ranges.

Most importantly, the process obligates project managers to refine their plans early on in development.

“There’s an awful lot of scrutiny,” said Mu2e Co-spokesperson Bob Bernstein. “A lot of it is getting across how carefully you’ve looked at certain things.”

Bernstein added that the review process is collaborative and gives the project leads ideas on how to move forward. That’s where Ray said agency support was essential to getting CD1 approval so quickly.

Ray added that Lehman was so impressed by the Mu2e review that he asked for extra copies of their presentation to use an exemplar.

During the review, the review team suggested the Mu2e team make use of a little-known rule that would allow them to jump ahead in the critical decision process. The typical next step, CD2, is granted when specific design plans are approved; CD3 allows the project to make purchases. Mu2e plans to pursue part of CD3 early in order to purchase parts that take a long time to manufacture.

Bernstein said the CD1 review was a giant step forward for the experiment.

“It’s a huge sign from DOE that they want to do this experiment,” he said. “It’s a process that gives you a sense of reality about the experiment. It focuses the mind and efforts quite nicely.”

—Joseph Piergrossi