Construction of INO likely to begin by next year

INO is a world class observatory to study the Neutrinos which are elusive, nearly mass-less, tiny, neutral, elementary particles found abundantly in the cosmos. It will be built by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and 20 other institutions.

"The USD 167 million project was approved by the Ministry of Forest and Environment on October 18 and now it has to be approved by the Atomic Energy Commission and then cleared by the Cabinet," Prof Naba Mondal, Chief of the project at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research told PTI on the sidelines of the 12th International Workshop on Neutrino factories which will begin tomorrow.

"The major obstacle for the project has been cleared. The ministry wanted us to change the site to Bodi West Hills in Theni district from Singara in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu (which we did). We plan to begin construction at the end of 2011 or early 2012," he said.

Meanwhile, international particle physicists are planning to finalise a project for a Mega Neutrino factory (accelerator to produce artificial neutrinos) which will be located either in Europe or in Japan by 2012, Modal said.

The underground laboratory (1000 metres underground) will consist of a massive 50 kilo-tonne detector made of layers of magnetised iron and glass that will be used to detect neutrinos and anti-neutrinos when cosmic rays interact with the atmosphere.

INO will have two functions- to detect the neutrinos from cosmos and the neutrinos (artificially) produced by the Mega Neutrino factory (accelerator) which will be travelling 7,000 km underground either from the final location.

The INO was originally planned to be located in the Nilgiri Hills at Singara because the thick granite of the mountain would have helped to shield the experiment from cosmic rays that could overwhelm the signal from neutrinos.

But last year the project suffered a major setback when the site was rejected due to the presence of elephants that use the land there as a migration corridor and also because it is near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

"We are very happy to get this important clearance. INO is an important basic science project in this country," Mondal said. However, government approval for the Bodi West Hills site is subject to condition that construction of the project does not entail cutting down trees or causing damage to the forest cover, he added.

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