We Want Your Feedback on Our Planned Neutrino Experiment

Over the next 10 years, Fermilab hopes to help build a massive new experiment called LBNE. The Department of Energy is looking for your help to determine what impact it may have on the environment.

Last week, I told you about NOvA, a neutrino experiment we’re in the midst of building. This week, I’d like to tell you about one we’re hoping to build in the coming years. 

We call it the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, or LBNE for short. It’s a larger and more intricate experiment than NOvA, but it’s designed to help answer the same questions. Where did all the antimatter go after the Big Bang? How do neutrinos change from one type to another? 

For this experiment, Fermilab would create the neutrinos on site and send them through 800 miles of rock to a detector in Lead, SD, at the Sanford Lab. As with NOvA, no tunnel would be required — neutrinos can travel through all that rock without interacting with it.

To study those neutrinos, we’re hoping to build a 50-foot-high particle detector just under the ground in South Dakota. This machine would be filled with liquid argon, which is like helium, but heavier, and must be super-cooled to remain in liquid form. Sensors in the detector would record the neutrinos we’d send in that direction as they interact with the argon.

We also hope to build a beamline (and a 52-foot-high hill to accommodate it) on the Fermilab site, about 1,000 feet east of Kirk Road. If the project is approved, we would like to start building that hill as early as 2015.

LBNE is one of the most prominent experiments on Fermilab’s slate for the next decade-plus. It’s a collaboration between us and more than 60 institutions from around the world, and it’s undergoing Department of Energy approval step by step. If it’s given the green light, LBNE would start taking data in 2023.

So why am I telling you about this now? Because over the next 10 months, you’ll get the chance to find out a lot more about LBNE, and give us your feedback on the project.

The DOE has just begun the Environmental Assessment on the project, which means they’ll be trying to determine what impact building it would have on the air, water and soil quality, among other things, both in Illinois and South Dakota.

We’re beginning to roll out more information about LBNE, including a new fact sheet (opens as a PDF), and sometime this spring, we will host an informational meeting for anyone who wants to attend. Later this year, we’ll share a draft of the Environmental Assessment document, and open up a 30-day public comment period, during which you can send in emails, write letters, fill in comment forms and call DOE officials. 

During that period, we will also hold a public comment meeting, and everyone who wants to is welcome to attend.

We’ve put up a web page that describes the Environmental Assessment process (LINK). I’d encourage you to give that site a read, and if you have questions or thoughts about it, feel free to share them with us. You can send an email to me, or contact Peter Siebach with the Department of Energy directly at peter.siebach@ch.doe.gov.

We’ll keep you posted about the process, and let you know when the public meetings will be held. Stay tuned!

Andre Salles is the media and community relations specialist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. You can reach him at 630-840-6733 or asalles@fnal.gov.

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