State Governments Scramble to Host Supercollider Project

Article excerpt

The federal government's proposed superconducting super collider, a $4.4 billion proton beam accelerator for pure research, has nearly half the state governments, including Oklahoma, scrambling to become the host of the immense project.

Twenty states already have appropriated or spent more than $22 million in their efforts to land the SSC, and at least five other states are actively considering such campaigns.

In Oklahoma, funding of $1 million for use in the state's bid to get the super collider has been approved by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

Although President Reagan only approved the project in February, one state began preparing for the competition three years ago.

The states' eagerness to win the project stems from its construction and permanent jobs, hundreds of visiting scientists, an annual budget of $270 million, no pollution and the prestige of being a world center of research.

"We're talking about 4,000 to 7,000 scientific and technical jobs, plus all the support people," said U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, whose Illinois district includes most of a proposed site.

Colorado Gov. Roy Romer called the project "the largest commitment to basic research in the history of man."

The U.S. Department of Energy solicited site proposals from every state beginning April 1; they are due Aug. 3. Energy Secretary John S. Herrington says a site could be selected in January 1989.

The DOE has set guidelines for the eventual site, such as geologic stability and the availability of water and electricity. Much of the money is being spent to determine whether a site meets those criteria.

The superconducting super collider will be a buried ring 52 miles in circumference. Proton beams will be accelerated in opposite directions to nearly the speed of light, confined in the ring by powerful superconducting magnets. The protons will then be smashed together in a collision at an energy of 40 trillion electron volts, nearly 20 times the energy provided by any existing accelerators here or in Europe.

The debris left by such collisions gives scientists insights into the most basic nature of matter and the universe, and the higher the energy, the more detail can be seen. …