Neutrino slipping out as Andhra beckons

Visakhapatnam district could be an option for INO as the proposed observatory fails to get approval in Tamil Nadu even after four years of waiting; agency applied for fresh eco clearance on June 1

Published: 15th June 2017 01:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2017 05:42 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

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 to Express that hunt for alternative sites has begun. “We can’t wait for ever. We waited for close to four long 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 and reserved the names of the alternative sites.

However, sources said 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 said 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. He also said the INO was complying with the NGT orders.


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