Two more proposals in underground lab contest

In a contentious process for NSF funding, WA and MN add proposals to operate underground science lab.

Teams from four states are engaged in an increasingly hot battle to win a $300 million federally funded underground science lab. Groups from Washington state and Minnesota submitted proposals, joining Colorado and South Dakota, to the National Science Foundation in bids to run the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), The Rocky Mountain News reports.

The history of the project has been contentious. In 2005, NSF selected Colorado's Henderson Mine and South Dakota's Homestake Mine as finalists for the lab. Each team was awarded $500,000 to prepare a conceptual design.

In June 2006, the University of Washington complained that its proposal was unfairly eliminated from the competition. So NSF opened up the next phase of the compeition to all academic institutions.

In the latest round of proposals, a University of Minnesota-led team revived its plan to build the DUSEL in the former Soudan Iron Mine, about 90 miles north of Duluth. The iron mine closed in 1962 and now hosts physics experiments, said University of Minnesota physicist Marvin Marshak.

"Even though we are disadvantaged by not having been funded by the NSF, we think we'll be selected in the end," Marshak said Monday.

Colorado State University officials say they're not worried.

"We are not terribly concerned about either of those developments," Colorado State University physicist and Henderson team member Robert Wilson said of the Washington and Minnesota efforts.

The winning team will receive up to $5 million per year for the next three years to continue developing its plan. If funded by Congress, DUSEL construction would begin in 2010.

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