Sanford Underground Research Facility seeking $13 million in state funds for expansion

News StaffJanuary 25, 2023News
Sanford Underground Research Facility

LEAD, S.D. — Running out of space and concern over inroads the Chinese are making in the area of underground science has prompted an emergency request for a $13 million appropriation – the first time the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) has asked for money from the state since 2015, when the state granted $3.95 million to help transition work to refurbish the Ross Shaft.

According to South Dakota Science and Technology Authority President Casey Peterson, other experiments that could have been conducted at SURF have recently gone to other countries, taking U.S. dollars for research and experiments with them.

That information comes from testimony in support of Senate Bill 35, which appropriates $13 million in emergency funding for the Sanford Underground Research Facility. The funding would in part, pay for the first of two phases to build two new caverns at the 4,850-level of the lab. Lab officials said the caverns are necessary to host the next generations of dark matter experiments, research in quantum computing, and more.

The Sanford Underground Research Facility currently houses 39 experiments, not including the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment that is planned for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility, which the Department of Energy is currently funding for excavation and development.

The $13 million from the state would help excavate a tunnel that provides the necessary infrastructure for ventilation, as well as a pathway to transport excavated rock to the Ross Shaft. Once the tunnel is excavated, lab officials say the second phase of the project is to excavate and build two new caverns in the lab. That project is estimated to cost $100 million, which will be raised with private donations and outside funding sources.

According to Sanford Underground Research Facility Executive Director Mike Headley, the emergency status of Senate Bill 35 is due to the lab needing the funds by March and that without emergency consideration, funding would take much longer and would add more costs to the project.

The Department of Energy provides $35 million a year to operate and maintain the Sanford Underground Research Facility, as well as funding to build and outfit LBNF/DUNE. To date, the state has contributed $66 million in appropriations and future funds to the research facility. There have been more than $900 million in private and federal dollars invested in the project in South Dakota.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, and is co-sponsored by local legislators: Reps. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center; Kirk Chaffee, R-Whitewood; Mary Fitzgerald, R-St. Onge; among state legislators.

Members of the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee voted unanimously to move Senate Bill 35 on to the Joint Committee on Appropriations for further consideration.