India Based Neutrino Observatory: Potential Geological, Radiological And Biological Impacts

A unique science laboratory is coming up deep inside the mountains in Idukki-Theni districts of Kerala and Tamilnadu in India for neutrino research. The lab has to be located in deep underground with ‘walls’ and roof of at least 1000 meter thickness for filtering the cosmic rays. There will be a big laboratory of 3432 sq meters in area and 32.5 meters in height and three smaller ones of 1600 sq m and 10 m high. The length of the tunnels will be 2491 meters and its portal of entry is in Theni district of TN. The projected life of the lab is 120 years. This mega science project of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) costing Rs 1,300 crores was approved for XIth five year plan. Tunneling will start soon. High energy neutrinos manufactured in Neutrino Factory at Chicago in USA will be beamed towards INO to study the changes occurring during the journey.

Natural neutrinos

Neutrinos are part of a group of fundamental particles known as leptons. There are 12 fundamentaal particles -6 leptons and 6 quarks. All matter in the universe are thought to be made of these particles. Neutrinos are produced in Sun and other stars. They travel in straight line at near speed of light. They come in different energy levels starting with a few electron volts (eV) to trillions and even higher eV. Sun is the major source of neutrinos on earth. Every second more than 6 million solar neutrinos pass through every square centimeter area of our body. Most of these are of low energy of Million eV (MeV). Solar neutrinos and other low energy neutrinos are the least hazardous as they interact with other matter particles extremly rarely. Occasionally particles of ultra-high energy are also seen and they interact with matter more often and vigorously and create radioactive particles.

Factory made neutrinos

The neutrinos I am discussing here are the ones made in Neutrino Factories (NF) and Muon Colliders (MC), which are currently in the design stage and are expected to be operational 2020 and 2022 respectively. These neutrinos are different from the natural neutrinos in following respects:

1.Energy level – The muon neutrinos manurfactureed by CERN and other accelerators have maximum energy of 5 billion eV (GeV). NF neutrinos will be in the range of 500 GeV and MC muons are expected to achieve an energy level of 1500 GeV.

2.Intensity Level – all the natural neutrinos are travelling as independent particles, where as the factory made neutrinos will be collimated to higher intesity.

3.Mono-energetic – Neutrinos of varying energy levels will be segregated.

High-energy, high intensity, mono-energetic beam of muon neutrinos dispatched from the Fermi National Laboratory towards INO are quite different from the individualized, particle shower the planet experiences constantly.

Location of the detector laboratory

“The newly proposed site for the INO (77°17’5.32” E 9°56’46.20”N) is located near Pudukkottai in Pottipuram village. The project site is abutted on the western side by the high ranges of the southern Western Ghats. The major townships around the site are Bodinayakkanur on the north about 18 km away, Theni on the north-eastern side about 35km away, Chinnamannur situated (~25km away) on the south-eastern side and Kambam (~21km away) on the southern side. Pottipuram village is connected to the nearby townships by road. A cart road leads up to the INO portal site. Nearest railhead is at Bodinayakkanur.”i

“The portal of the tunnel leading to the caverns will be located nearby Pottipuram Veerappasamy temple while the caverns will be built about 1 km underneath the high hillock of Ambarasakaradu.”ii “The caverns and the tunnel will be located underneath the Bodi-west Reserve Forest area. The 1.75 km long horizontal tunnel cutting through the charnockite rock, slopping down slightly with a gradient of 1:13.5 beneath up to the Kerala state border leads to the laboratory. The caverns are located with in Tamil Nadu state.”iii.

As per The Sketch in REIA (figure 2) there are 5 tunnels, with a total length of 2,491 meters. There are also 4 caverns, instead of 3 in the text and table 2 of EIA. The cavern No 4 (10mx10mx10m) is located at 1000 meters on the main tunnel. The direction of the tunnel is South-East to North-West from the portal till 1960 m. At 1960 m it bends to the right and the direction for the next 100 meter is South to North. At 2060 m it bends again to the right and the direction is South-West to North East. The last portion, named as auxiliary tunnel is 224 meter long. Cavern No 3 is located at 1900 m, parallel and west to the tunnel. Cavern 4 is also similarly located at 1000 m from the portal.

If the Kerala state border is located at 1750 meters from the portal, then 740 meters of tunnel including 211 meters of the main tunnel and all the remaining four tunnels and caverns 1, 2 and 3 are all located within Kerala. Total volume of the carved out space of INO is 236,000 cub meters. Of this, 77,310 m3 is located underneath Tamil Nadu. That means, the remainder 159007 m3 or 67% of INO is within Kerala state.

A collimated high energy neutrino beam hitting an atom bomb hidden in a silo or submarine can cause its explosion. High energy neutrino beams can also be used as sa tactical weapon to kill a small group of leaders/commanders with high radiation within minutes. This is useful for ‘regime changes’ or ‘war against terrorism’. Since neutrinos cannot be blocked by any material, this is a defense-less weapon. No time for early warning either.

INO site selection was not transparent. There are several issues concerning the safety of the people and the Eco-system which need to be discussed and resolved. The key issues of concerns are listed below:

1.VIOLATION OF Frderal Pincipes: According to DAE, the tunnel will end at the Kerala border and the laboratories (caverns) will be in Tamil Nadu. From the sketch and descriptions given in the project documents, 700 meters of the tunnel and the main cavern and the two smaller ones will be under Kerala. Sanction has been obtained from the Government of Tamil Nadu; Government of Kerala has not even been informed.

2.Since even a hairline crack in the wall (one km wide) or the roof can topple the detector, digging of wells or development projects like irrigation tunnels, mining etc. will have to be banned within a kilometer from the laboratory cave.

3.RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION: Official studies conducted in US and Europe Papers written by health physicists working with accelerators in Fermilab, CERN etc show the potential of high dose radiation-contamination, hundreds of kilometers away from the factory and detectors. Most of the neutrinos beamed from Chicago will pass through the detector laboratory and emerge through the land above the laboratory. Radioactive particles like carbon14 and tritium will be generated by the hadron shower at the point of emergence and these can travel long distances along with stream and groundwater.

4.MPACT ON DAMS –Idukki is a geologically sensitive district with a dozen reservoirs (within 60 km of INO) holding some four billion cubic meters of water which is the lifeline for three districts in TN and Kerala. Dams can be impacted in two ways: (1) Explosion induced seismicity. The cave making involves removal of 800,000 tons of hard rock with about 5 to 10 lakh kg of explosives, 3 times a day for three-four years. (2) Radioactive contamination of water. If radiation-contamination occurs, the dams will have to be emptied. Farm products can also be contaminated which can cause the collapse of the plantation economy and tourism.

5.ACCIDENTS LIKE BEAM MISDIRECTION. Under accidental conditions like loss of electricity, beam misdirection is possible. In such cases, if the beam emerges through high-occupancy places like schools can irradiate a lots of people will be harmed.

6.INO’s is a part of the US Fermilab project. Its mandate is to provide information on the quality of neutrinos detected at INO to the US lab, more or less like a hospital undertaking drug trials. The project proposal was written by scientists of Fermilab and submitted to the Indian Planning Commission for funding in Feb 2006. US is not likely to share the weapon developed with India. Details of this collaboration with US are not available in any of the document or official websites in India.

7.The idea of using neutrino as a weapon was first floated in 2003 by the scientists from Japan. The existing and the planned research can lead to the weapon. The neutrino weapon issue has not been discussed by the global disarmament community consisting of agencies of the governments/United Nations and also the peace movements. The societal, ethical and other aspects of these studies should be discussed widely.

8.Cave making will generate about one million tons of muck, of which one lakh tons will be in dust form and 10,000 tons in nanometer size. This can contaminate the farmlands and water sources in TN portion

We have only highlighted the known hazards of neutrinos published by scientists working with the neutrino research establishments. The knowledge about neutrinos is extremely limited. Even though billions of them are flying around, none of them are similar to the factory-produced ones. One does not know if their passage through different layers of earth can cause other major impacts like earthquakes. Because something like this has never happened before. There is also a concern that the Department of Atomic Energy may use the underground space for storing their high level radioactive waste from 20+ nuclear power plants. An underground space with more or less unlimited scope for expansion and nobody to monitor is tempting.

Neutrino research has immense physics potential and societal value as well. The research will have implications for astrophysics, phenomenology and particle physics. Neutrinos hold the key to several fundamental questions on the origin of the Universe and the energy production in stars. Neutrinos can be used for tomography of the earth and human body also and they are less hazardous than X-rays. Neutrinos may tell us more about dark energy and dark matter and ultimately help us exploit them as the earth is getting depleted of its material and energy sources.

However, its site related safety risks and global issues related to weaponization should be discussed openly and the project need to be placed for public scrutiny.

VT Padmanabhan

Studied in Gauhati University (BA), University of Poona (MA) and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi (MCH)
Currently working on (a) Neutrino weapons and (b) Space Weather Anomalies
Studied the site and machine-related safety risks posed by the Kudamkulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu
Space weather anomalies and nuclerar safety
Studied the health effects of ionizing radiation among the workers and their progenies in the Indian Rare Earths, BARC, TAPS and MAPS
Radiation monitoring around the Madras Atomic Power Plant
Health studies of people living in proximate (6, 40 km) and distant (400 km) villages of the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS), Kalpakkam
Radioactive waste disposal in River Periyar/Arabian Sea and Unsafe storage of radioactive materials by the Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL), Eloor, Kerala
Genetic effects of ionizing radiation among children born to people exposed to high natural background radiation region (Chavara-Neendakara) in Kerala
Review of genetic and somatic studies of bomb survivors and their offspring in Hiroshima-Nagasaki
Genetic effects among children of people exposed to MIC gases IN Bhopal disaster of 1984 (from Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals)
Occupational hazards and environmental problems caused by the Gwalior Rayon plant at Nagda, Madhyapradesh.
Reduction of birth weight of children born during the operation of CocaCola bottling plant at Plachimeda in Kerala
Member, expert committee of PMANE
Member European Committee on Radiation Risks
Member Oversight Committee on Radiation and Health of Organic Consumers Association, USA
Founder Member, No-Nuke Asia Forum
Address :, Cell: 919846763770


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