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Down payment for collider construction.

Down payment for collider construction

By next summer, a wide swath of land surrounding Waxahachie, Tex., should see new activity as construction of the most expensive physics experiment ever -- the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) -- begins. Congress last week approved $225 million in funding for the project during fiscal year 1990, including $135 million for initial construction expenses. President Bush is expected to sign the appropriations bill.

Approval of funding for construction, after several years of delay, brought sighs of relief from SSC supporters. But the project still faces a number of uncertainties. One concern centers on the SSC's ultimate cost, which could escalate well beyond the $4.8 billion to $6 billion now proposed. The Department of Energy, which is responsible for the project, is presently reevaluating the entire scheme to come up with a revised cost estimate and schedule.

Moreover, in spite of U.S. invitations, the project has attracted minimal financial support from other countries. Members of Congress, while welcoming foreign participation, have expressed concern about losing technology to competitors, thereby putting the United States at an economic disadvantage.

"The SSC is an American project," Deputy Secretary of Energy W. Henson Moore stated last June. "The SSC project will ensure that America stays in the forefront of innovation and technological progress."

Construction of the SSC also presents its share of technical challenges, especially designing and manufacturing the thousands of giant superconducting magnets required to keep proton beams in line and tightly focused. In a recent report to the director of the SSC Laboratory, now located in Dallas, a review panel outlined a number of problems with the prototype magnets. However, SSC scientists and engineers believe they can overcome these difficulties. Minor design modifications would neither unduly delay the project nor substantially increase its cost, they say.

"It's an ambitious undertaking but one that is entirely doable," says SSC Laboratory spokesman Russ Wylie. "What we are seeing are the normal kinds of issues that come up in any engineering project, and they are to be expected."

SSC officials are now putting together a panel to select the project's architect, engineer and construction management firm, in preparation for the start of tunnel construction.
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Title Annotation:Superconducting Super Collider in Waxahachie, Texas
Author:Peterson, I.
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 23, 1989
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