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WIPP's Role in the National Underground Science Laboratory (NUSL) Initiative

Several months after DOE conducted its workshop in Carlsbad to assess the science communities' desire for an underground laboratory, the Homestake Mining Corporation announced the planned closure of its 125-year old namesake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota at the end of 2001.  Considering the Homestake mine to be a valuable resource that should not be abandoned, independent members of the physics community and the local South Dakota community leaders began a process to demonstrate its value to the science community.  The National Science Foundation then funded a number of recognized particle physics researchers with experience in underground experiments to form a committee and conduct a series of workshops similar to the one DOE previously conducted in Carlsbad.  This new Committee was chaired by John Bahcall of the Institute for Advanced Study and was intended to provide a more visible pathway to consensus and recommendation.  The Committee's process began in October '00 and culminated in a final recommendation in March '01 that the Homestake Mine be acquired by the Government and converted to a National Underground Science Laboratory (NUSL).  WIPP was mentioned in the Committee's recommendation as being too shallow and thus precluded from "...being a general purpose underground science facility for the United States".

Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico State University and the Carlsbad Field Office of DOE developed a conceptual proposal for the Committee's evaluation of a vision for a National Underground Science Facility at WIPP.  You can read that conceptual proposal here (261 kb PDF):

Prospects for an Underground Laboratory in Carlsbad, NM
Report to the Underground Laboratory Committee
February 28, 2001

click to download the pdf version of the conceptual proposal to use WIPP as a National Underground Science Laboratory (261 kb)

...."We believe that the CUNL site is an ideal location as an important component of an U.S. NUL system..."
The Committee's recommendation was not met with unanimous agreement across the non-accelerator particle physics community.  An independent group of researchers felt compelled to develop an alternate recommendation, and called for a more balanced role, with WIPP playing an important part in the future of U.S. underground physics experiments.  Read their letter of support for WIPP as an important component of an U.S. National Underground Laboratory system.

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