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DUSEL Digs Deeper to Welcome DOE

March 30, 2009

Contact: Paul Preuss, (510) 486-6249,

The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) planned for the Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota, is a National Science Foundation-sponsored proposal, but on Wednesday, March 26, a visit by Department of Energy representatives, including Dan Lehman of DOE’s Office of Project Assessment, Fermilab director Pier Oddone, Brookhaven director Sam Aronson, and Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Divison director James Symons and Engineering Division director Kem Robinson, signalled intense DOE interest in working with NSF and the state government to create what will be the biggest, deepest underground science facility in the world.

The highlight of the trip was a descent from swirling snow at the surface to 72-degree warmth 4,550 feet down in the rock, the deepest yet that visitors have been able to delve into the retired gold mine – not quite as far down as the research “campus” DUSEL plans at the mine’s 4,850-foot deep level, however. There DUSEL – led by Kevin Lesko of Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley with co-PI Bill Roggenthem of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology – will excavate one or more “large cavities,” enormous caverns each big enough to swallow Mount Rushmore whole. Filled with ultrapure water and instrumented by researchers from Brookhaven, these huge detectors will measure neutrinos from a beam created in a Fermilab accelerator hundreds of kilometers away. Until now, however, the future home of this Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment has been not just underground but underwater, flooded after the mine was closed. The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority’s Sanford Lab has been purifying and pumping the water out at a rate of 1,500 gallons a minute.

The government and ordinary citizens of South Dakota – who have filled auditoriums all over the state for the Sanford Lab’s “deep science” lectures – have made an enormous commitment to the success of the mine, including $120 million in state funds and private contributions from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford that have kept the operation going until now. When that money runs out, the federal government will have to step in. At a reception at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to welcome guests from DOE, NSF, DUSEL, and others, South Dakota’s gung-ho DUSEL supporter and governor, Mike Rounds, urged all parties to work together, noting that the “future of NSF’s and DOE’s high-energy physics progams rest here,” and describing the unique partnership as an alloy whose strength is greater than that of any of its components. Rounds suggested that great things await those who work underground, including more Nobel Prizes like the one that came late to Ray Davis, who uncovered the “missing solar neutrino” puzzle (which Lesko helped solve) during an experiment at Homestake in the 1960s. Rounds also noted that the last DOE lab director who visited DUSEL, Steven Chu by name, soon went on to become Secretary of Energy.

Numerous Berkeley Lab types have already made the kind of commitment Rounds is seeking, including DUSEL members and current Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley employees Lesko, Robinson, Melissa Barclay, Michael Barnett, George Campbell, Willi Chinowsky, Kurt Desayes, Jason Detwiler, Syd De Vries, Dick DiGennaro, Azriel Goldschmidt, Diana Jacobs, Richard Kadel, Stu Loken, Steve Marks, Sarah Morgan, Denis Peterson, Dave Plate, Bernard Sadoulet, Rohit Salve, Henrik Von der Lippe, and Joe Wang, plus Jose Alonso, Director of the Sanford Lab, and Peggy Norris, Sanford’s Deputy Director for Education and Outreach, both retired from the Lab’s Nuclear Science Division and now enthusiastic part- or full-time residents of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Additional information

More about DUSEL is at

More about the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake and the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority is at

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