MoEF nod for neutrino excavation in TN forest area

The project, being jointly implemented by the atomic energy department and the TIFR,  involves digging a 2-km deep hole through solid igneous rock to study sub-atomic particles. The environment ministry has cleared it subject to caveats.

The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) on Monday accorded both environmental and forest clearance for the department of atomic energy's project to set up a neutrino observatory in Bodi West Hills reserved forest in Theni district of south Tamil Nadu.

The MoEF had earlier denied permission to the DAE to set up the underground observatory at Singara in the Nilgiri hill district of the state.

The approval is subject to the condition that the project will not entail cutting down trees or causing damage to the forest cover. The MoEF has also insisted on measures to minimise the effect of tunnelling to create an underground lab that would be located 1,000 m below the surface, and to properly dispose of the rock debris resulting from it. 

"This will be a world class laboratory for underground science and will give India an edge in research relating to understanding the fundamental laws of nature," union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh said. "When completed, this will house the world's most massive magnet." 

The project, called the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO), concerns the study of neutrinos or sub-atomic particles present in the atmosphere. It 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 (51,000 tonnes), will be used to detect neutrinos.