TN designates site in Teni for INO project

As a first crucial step, the State has disclosed that the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) has bagged consultancy for the project, a multi-institutional effort led by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)  and others.

The alternative site in Theni district seems to have been de facto favoured for the purpose, as Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh turned down the Singara site in November 2009 as it "falls in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris" and also an elephant corridor.

Tabling the “Demands for Grants” for the Energy Department in the Assembly, Law Minister Durai Murugan, officiating for the ailing Electricity Minister Arcot Veeraswamy, stated in his policy note that the Rs 900 Crore project "is proposed to be located in Bodi West Hills, Pottipuram village of Theni district".

To be funded by the DAE and the Central Department of Science and Technology, the INO would study the interactions of “Neutrinos,” the weakly-interacting, little understood and supposedly mass-less particles. According to top physicists, it is best studied in a lab "necessarily placed underground." The study is expected to have great impact in nuclear physics, particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics. The policy note said that the TNEB has been entrusted with the task of being the “consultant” and “nodal agency” for the project formulation. It will also facilitate in tying up the requisite infrastructure for the underground labs and over-ground residential quarters, office, guest house, etc.

About 100 scientists would be working in the underground observatory at any point of time, it said.

Asked whether the minister's statement on INO meant that the Theni district site has been finalised for the project, a senior government official told Deccan Herald that The TNEB will prepare the Detailed Project Report, without committing himself about the Centre’s decision. However, some time back DAE and TIFR officials had conducted a public hearing in the area.

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