Fermilab in Batavia poised to renew work on neutrino project site

City officials get briefing from Fermilab team

This map shows the location of the planned Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility at Fermilab in Batavia. (Map courtesy of Fermilab)

BATAVIA – Fermilab is poised to renew site preparation work for construction of a massive physics project to study neutrinos.

Crews will remove trees and shrubs, move topsoil and perform grading work on a five-acre site along the east side of Kirk Road near Giese Road.

The work is expected to begin this week and to be completed by the end of March 2024.

A team from Fermilab gave the Batavia City Council a briefing on the project and the imminent site preparation work on Nov. 6.

They included scientist Steve Brice, construction manager John Szott, project engineer Kennedy Hartsfield and head of public education and outreach Rebecca Thompson.

Known as the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, the project is designed to understand one of the most elusive and mysterious of all subatomic particles and provide insights into the origin of matter.

Fermilab will generate and send neutrino particle beams 800 miles through the earth to the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota, where they will be measured by a particle detector more than a kilometer underground.

The LBNF/DUNE project is the largest international physics project hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, with the collaboration of more than 1,400 scientists and engineers from 35 countries.

“The world is going to be coming here to Fermilab,” Brice told the council.

In 2015, the Department of Energy placed the project’s cost at $1.2 billion to $1.86 billion, but since then the estimate has risen to more than the nearly $3 billion upper cost limit, according to a report on the Fermilab website.

Construction of the LBNF at Fermilab will get started in 2025, Szott said.

The facility will include two one-story buildings and two two-story buildings.

However, much of the facility will be underground, including a gigantic particle detector that will measure the neutrinos as they begin their journey to South Dakota.

Construction on the Sanford facility began in 2017 and initial site preparation work began at the Fermilab site in 2020.

The LBNF is expected to begin experiments early next decade and keep physicists busy for the next 30 years, Brice said.

The tree-clearing work to be performed over this winter needs to occur outside of the nesting season for birds and the roosting period for bats, Brice explained to the council.

The work will take place between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. The chain-saws, excavators, bulldozers and trucks are expected to produce noise levels typical of a construction project, Brice said.