The National Science Foundation (NSF) has authorized more than $29 million for the University of California, Berkeley, to create a preliminary plan for turning a former gold mine in South Dakota into the world's deepest laboratory.
The grant, approved Sept. 24 by the National Science Board, is for a preliminary design of the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), a facility at the former Homestake gold mine in Lead, S.D. The laboratory would consist of underground labs and above-ground buildings to host physics, engineering, geoscience and biology experiments that can only be conducted under thousands of feet of rock, as deep as 8,000 feet.
The rock would shield physics experiments from cosmic ray particles that would swamp detectors looking for rare events, while the mine's 600 kilometers of tunnels would allow access to microbes and geological areas not otherwise possible.
"NSF has put forward nearly $30 million and, in addition, provided $21 million more to explore 16 possible experiments, so they are embracing DUSEL very firmly," said Kevin Lesko, UC Berkeley adjunct professor of physics and principal investigator for the project.
Of the $29.1 million, nearly $13 million will be directed to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for major design contracts being managed there for the project and $370,000 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The preliminary design for the underground laboratory would be part of a proposal submitted to the board in the spring of 2011 in anticipation of funds to start construction in fiscal year 2013.
Construction is already underway at the mine after the June dedication of the Sanford Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, which is supported by $70 million from South Dakota banker and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. In all, more than $120 million of non-NSF funding has been committed to rehabilitating the shafts and pumping and treating
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley