It’s Tamil Nadu versus Andhra Pradesh over neutrino project site

With the Tamil Nadu government showing no urgency and National Green Tribunal suspending the environmental clearance, the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project is looking for a new ally.

Published: 18th June 2017 11:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th June 2017 11:19 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: With the Tamil Nadu government showing no urgency and National Green Tribunal suspending the environmental clearance, the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project is looking for a new ally. In all likelihood, Tamil Nadu will lose out to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, where a new site is being explored as a possible alternative.

INO project director Vivek Datar confirmed that hunt for alternative sites has begun. “We can’t wait for ever. We waited for close to four years to get approvals and tried convincing people about the national significance of the project and importantly doing it on time. But, there is no response from the government. On the other hand, the Andhra Pradesh government is very welcoming. So, we are weighing our options,” he said.

However, sources say a site selection committee has been formed and two sites are under consideration of which Kothapalem village in Visakhapatnam district is emerging as the preferred location as it offers requisite geophysical characteristics needed to construct a giant 50,000 tonne magnetic Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) to study neutrino oscillations produced by cosmic rays in the earth’s atmosphere.

Since the laboratory cavern needs to be more than 1000m underground, the choice of site is primarily dictated by the rock quality. South Indian mountains have the most compact, dense rock and are oldest rocks found in India, while the Himalayas are mostly metamorphic sedimentary rock. Bodi Hills in Theni district has Charnockite, which is the hardest rock known.Vivek Datar says the mountains of Tamil Nadu are best suited, offering stable dense compact rocks with maximum safety to locate such a laboratory, but unfortunately the indecision on by the state government is forcing us to move out. 

Neutrino Observatory

India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) is a particle physics research project under construction to primarily study atmospheric neutrinos in a 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) deep cave under Ino Peak near Theni, Tamil Nadu. This project is notable in that it is anticipated to provide a precise measurement of neutrino mixing parameters. The project is a multi-institute collaboration and one of the biggest experimental particle physics projects undertaken in India.

The project, originally to be completed in 2015 at an estimated cost of `1,500 crores, has been cleared by the Ministry of Environment for construction in the Bodi West Hills Reserved Forest in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu.

How India lost neutrino race

During an experiment in the Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka discovered atmospheric neutrinos in 1965. Though India conceived setting up the INO in 2006, Japan (T2K), China (JUNO), and US (NOVA) have raced ahead in beginning the operations in their underground neutrino laboratories. Naba K Mondal of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics said it was very unfortunate.

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