News of the WeekNational Science Foundation

Budget Shortfall Could Derail Plans for Underground Lab

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Science  19 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5972, pp. 1438-1439
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5972.1438-a

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A tight budget and unanticipated safety problems are threatening to kill plans to convert an abandoned gold mine in South Dakota into a $750 million deep underground science and engineering laboratory (DUSEL). Since 2007, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has been supporting a team of scientists and engineers developing plans to convert the Homestake mine near the town of Lead into an enormous lab for experiments in fields including particle and nuclear physics and geology and microbiology. Although NSF has not yet agreed to build DUSEL, the agency is spending $36 million this year on the effort. But its 2011 budget, released last month, requests only $19 million to continue design work, half of what scientists and NSF program staff say is needed to keep the project on track.