Posts Tagged ‘Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’

Neutrino lab site

India’s Department of Atomic Energy has been given clearance to build a multi-million dollar underground facility to study particles called neutrinos. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has given the consent to set up a neutrino observatory in Bodi West Hills reserved forest in Theni district in south Tamil Nadu. The thick layer of over 1,000m rocks will act as a natural filter allowing only the neutrino particles to reach the laboratory. A site located in Nilgiri Hills at Singara in southern India was originally chosen for the project, but did not get clearance after some protests and due to the danger to the local elephants and tigers.

India’s particle physicists are rejoicing as they have cleared a major hurdle for their project called the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO). This is one of the biggest and most ambitious scientific projects ever undertaken by India and it could help gain a leading role in the field of particle research. According to Naba K Mondal, INO spokesman and a scientist with TIFR, India will be the fourth country to execute such a massive project after Canada, Japan and Italy. “We expect to begin construction for this project by March 2012 after clearance from the Atomic Energy Commission and the central cabinet,” he said.
The INO project, entailing the study of neutrinos or sub-atomic particles present in the atmosphere, will be executed by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and 20 other scientific institutions in the country. A massive detector made of iron, weighing 51 kilotons, will be used to detect neutrinos. The lab will be housed in a cavern built at a depth of one km from the surface, at the end of a two-km long tunnel. It is expected to be completed by 2015 at a cost of Rs 1,200 crore.

However, the MoEF approval is subject to conditions. The project should neither encourage cutting down of trees nor cause any damage to the forest cover. The MoEF has also insisted on measures to minimize the effect of tunneling to create an underground lab that would be located 1,000 meters below the surface and to properly dispose of the rock debris resulting from it.

The project will enhance the understanding of the universe and the Earth’s structure, as well as the volcanic activity and how tsunamis are formed. Also, when completed, this project is believed to house the world’s most massive magnet.

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