News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dousing the DUSEL

Proposed DUSEL:  on life support
In December, the backers of the project to turn the old Homestake Goldmine into a national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory were sent into shock when money that they thought had been promised by the National Science Foundation was denied.  The National Science Foundation Board denied $29 million which was to keep labs set up in the mine running through the end of the current fiscal year in September  and to finance plans for further development of the lab. 

A lack of funding would clearly have ended development of the lab and could even have meant shutting off the water pumps and letting the mine refill with water that it costs about $1 million a month to pump out.  The U.S. Dept. of Energy announced in mid-February that it came up with $4 million to keep the pumps running after June, when current funds will run out, until the end of the fiscal year in September. 

A portent is that the National Science Foundation, which was was the agency that decided that the Homestake Goldmine was the best site for a DUSEL, has abandoned the project altogether.  It has zeroed out any funding for the project in its requested budget for the next fiscal year.  The Department of Energy has requested $15 million in its budget.  That is a considerably diminished amount, but it will support further planning for the development to continue for a year at a reduced level.  

Future funding is troubling.  While President Obama's budget contains a high level of support for research in high energy physics, the Republican-led Congress wants to slash any such spending.  That elimination of funding along with the withdrawal of support by the National Science Foundation, both monetary and scientific, casts some ominous signs on the future of the DUSEL.

The National Science Board expressed dissatisfaction with the way its partnership with the Department of Energy was handled and with the  general management plans for the DUSEL, but it has not given specific reasons for its disaffection with the project.  There are some conjectures about its attitude, but nothing has been cited that could explain the severity of its divorce from the project. 

The State of South Dakota, which has financed development of the mine into a lab, is facing too many budget cuts of its own to give further funding to the DUSEL project any kind of  priority.  While the scientists who have invested work and interest in the lab are continuing to advocate for its development, the harsh fact, as illustrated in the State of Wisconsin, is that Tea Party-driven Republican regimes hold teachers and researchers, along with the working middle class,  in low regard and have promised obstacles to any efforts that will in any way benefit them. Science is in a state of being stymied.

The media have dutifully reported hopeful pronouncements by people connected with the DUSEL project, but the budget proposals indicate a very dark future.  That $15 million from the Dept. of Energy might have to be diverted to shutting the project down. 

1 comment:

caheidelberger said...

So when does Rep. Kristi Noem come to the rescue of DUSEL, academics, and education?

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States