There are some pertinent questions that surround the Neutrino project.

Pro-humanity not anti-science Why protest against Neutrino project in TN is also scientific
Voices Opinion Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 11:02

M. Vetriselvan and G. Sundarrajan

India is aggressive in its pursuit of Neutrino project in the picturesque district of Theni in Southern Tamil Nadu despite protests from people of the village and legal issues. The people of Theni feel the pristine beauty of Theni will be spoilt and their livelihood jeopardized if the Neutrino project is allowed to come up. 

At the risk of being branded as anti-science – which we vehemently deny of course – let us raise some pertinent questions around the Neutrino project. 

“If the Neutrino Factory becomes a reality, a detector such as the one envisaged for INO, could be one of the far detectors in its second phase of operations. The INO site also happens to be at the ‘magic baseline’ of ~7200 km from two potential sites for a future Neutrino Factory viz. ~6560 km from JPARC in Tokai, Japan and ~7150 km from CERN at Geneva, Switzerland”, reads the Detail Project Report of India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO). 

Even the primary goal of the project is to study neutrinos from various natural and “laboratory sources” says the report. The DPR submitted by the IIM, in the year 2010, to the MoEF&CC, also states that INO, “in the second phase, is suitable as an end-detector for a future possible high-energy neutrino beam from an accelerator thousands of kilometers away. Such an option is already being vigorously pursued world-wide.”  

When India does not have any plan of establishing a neutrino beam accelerator, where are we going to get neutrino beams from? Why is the second phase of the project being debated less?

DPR of the INO states that the project has been evaluated by a “group of foreign scientists, apart from a science committee of DAE”. We don’t know who the scientists

During the emergence of the Indo-US nuclear pact, a memorandum of understanding was established in the year 2006, between institutions of US and Indian in the field particle accelerator and high energy physics. In November 2009, Pier Oddone, Director, Fermilab, appointed Sanjib Mishra, University of South Carolina and Brajesh Choudhary, University of Delhi as Technical Project Coordinators for the development and execution of the Indian Institutions and Fermilab Collaboration on Neutrino Physics. Later that month, Indian Institutions and Fermilab collaboration signed the addendum MOU IV for neutrino collaboration that included MINOS, NOVA, LBNE and MIPP experiments. The continuance of this agreement is also found in the Joint statement issued, in 2015, by India and US.

Fermilab of US is in the process of establishing a project called Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) by which the world's highest-intensity neutrino will be beamed through the Earth's mantle to a massive detector located hundreds of miles away.  Whether neutrinos are going to be beamed from fermilab to pottipuram as a result of the above-said agreements, we don’t know. So far, the INO has not officially denied such an experiment.  

While Dr. Kalam had said that neutrino beams can be used for nuclear proliferation, Alfred Tang in his paper titled “Neutrino Counter Nuclear Weapon”(dated: June 26, 2013), says, “Radiations produced by neutrino-antineutrino annihilation at the Z0 pole can be used to heat up the primary stage of a thermonuclear warhead and can in principle detonate the device remotely. Neutrino-antineutrino annihilation can also be used as a tactical assault weapon to target hideouts that are unreachable by conventional means.”

What ails the INO?

The India-based neutrino observatory is facing problems since the idea was mooted and chose wrong places including the recently selected Pottipuram amparappar hills site (at Theni). “All that begins on a wrong foot is bound to finish on a wrong foot”.

The present site in the Western Ghats, is an ecologically sensitive area and the forestland diverted for this project was pastoral land for the community living in the vicinity of the project site, especially Pottipuram village and also the local deity “Amparappar” was being worshipped by the locals for centuries together. It is fundamentally their cultural and forest rights that the local community has to give up for this project. Over and above, the approvals for the project were sought as if nothing needs to be done.

1. The project was approved under “B” category project, which holds good for townships less than certain sq.ft, whereas the report submitted on the nature of the project clearly states that it could be compared to building tunnel for hydropower projects. When the petitioner’s counsel pointed out this, the tribunal accepted it and said if it is within 10KM’s, then it can be considered as Category “A” project only.

2. The construction of caverns and the underground facility will require blasting of “thousands of tons of rocks” using “hundreds of kilos of explosives” that will have an impact on the environment, that the EIA agency has not studied as agreed in the defunct “ecological impact assessment”. 

3. The project proponent was not clearly stated, while the application was submitted by the Indian Institute of Mathematical Sciences. In the court they said that TIFR is the proponent, the court said that is wrong and it should be one agency, and said when new application is submitted this should be taken care of.

4. The agency that did the ecological impact assessment, “Salim Ali Centre for Natural history & Ornithology” is not an accredited agency to do “EIA”. According to the rules laid down, the study should be done by an “accredited agency”.

5. According to the EIA process, the EIA should be done comprehensively and translated into local languages and given to the public and public consent should be sought before the grant of the Enviro clearance (EC). Nothing was done in this case, only one or two awareness meetings were conducted and it ended there.

6. As the project involves “factory made Neutrinos” in the 2nd phase, a study ought to have been conducted on the radiation issues associated with Neutrinos from Muon Colliders as done in the case of the Fermilab’s neutrino observatory’s “environment impact assessment”. Nothing was done on that account. We submitted a copy of the assessment report done for Fermilab and told that the precedence is there for these kind of facilities. 

7. The site is situated in a place that is close to 12 reservoirs, including Idukki dam, Mullai Periyar, Vaigai, Vaippar and many such reservoirs, the impact of blasting on these reservoirs was not studied in detail. 

8. The disturbance of aquifers and leeching of chemicals from the explosives to groundwater sources and thus resulting chemicals getting deposited in nearby wells was not taken into account. The disturbance of aquifers and eventual disturbance in the geomorphology of the project area that happened in “Gran Sasso” underground lab in Italy, is a live example of it.

9. The last nail in the coffin was the clearance from Wildlife board. Mathikettan Shola National Park is situated within 5 km of the project boundary, hence wildlife clearance should have been obtained before going ahead with the clearance of the project. The project proponent took a stand that the clearance from wildlife board was not necessary and the tribunal did not accept it and gave the final verdict to the keep the EC in abeyance and it has to be a new application. 

When the verdict of the tribunal was getting delivered, the tribunal mentioned that there are many reasons to set aside the EC. The reason for not getting clearance from National Wildlife Board is enough to set aside the EC and left “other arguments as open”. The project proponent requested the tribunal if the EC is set aside, then all the financial sanctions of the cabinet and many other things gets cancelled and someone might fix responsibility on individuals, so the tribunal kept the EC in abeyance, and asked the proponent to reapply. The day new application is submitted, the impugned EC will be invalid. 

The project is being touted as a basic science project that will open new frontiers in applications. The theory of relativity is also a basic science intervention, how much ever good it has brought to man-kind. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima, Chernobyl and many other disasters are children of this theory of relativity. The person who developed Nuclear Bombs was not a politician like Roosevelt, it was a scientist called Oppenheimer who developed them.                

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the personal opinions of the authors.)

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!

You can also support us with a one-time payment.

Rs 200Rs 500Rs 1500Custom