Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 24  |  Friday, June 8, 2001  |  Number 10
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Lehman Committee Reviews: NuMI Project

by Kurt Riesselmann

NuMI Management and Lehman committee members Fermilab managers responded to recommendations of an expert NuMI review panel convened last month with determination to put the project on track for successful completion.

"We clearly have work to do," said NuMI Project Manager Dixon Bogert, "and we will do it."

Faced with increased project costs and delayed schedules, Fermilab managers and collaborators of the Neutrinos at the Main Injector, or NuMI, project and the related Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search experiment, hosted a high-level review chaired by the Department of Energy's Dan Lehman, with the aim of "re-baselining," or redefining, the project's cost and schedule. On May 22, the Lehman committee of experts in underground construction, engineering, procurement and project management met at Fermilab to review all aspects of the NuMI project.

At a close-out session on May 24, the panel reported that, while NuMI had made good progress in nearly all areas, significant challenges remain. They recommended changes to address the challenges and asked the NuMI project management to schedule a follow-up review in August before requesting increased project funding and setting a revised schedule.

"The project management has done a great job of identifying problems of the NuMI project," Lehman said, "but we are not ready to accept the changes yet."

Lehman and his team had listened to presentations, studied budgets and reviewed timetables to scrutinize NuMI's progress. The project includes the design and construction of the new NuMI beamline at Fermilab, which will produce neutrinos, and the MINOS experiment, whose two detectors will examine the neutrinos in an underground hall at Fermilab (near detector) and in a former iron mine in Soudan, Minnesota (far detector). Physicists expect the neutrino beam to change its composition during the 450-mile flight through the earth, proving the existence of neutrino oscillations.

"MINOS will have much better statistics than present experiments," said Boris Kayser, a theoretical physicist of the National Science Foundation, in a recent interview. "Physicists would really like to see a wiggle of the oscillations. MINOS is in a good position. It has the possibility of studying neutrino oscillations as a function of energy. It will provide the gold-plated confirmation."

Delay and cost increase

Lehman, director of DOE's Construction Management Support Division, has conducted hundreds of DOE project reviews. "We have known about cost growth of the NuMI project since our last review in November 2000," he said. "Now we are asking: Can we validate the cost-increase and schedule estimates?"

In November, the Lehman committee heard a proposal by the NuMI management to re-baseline the project by adding adequate contingency funds and establishing a new schedule for project completion. The November panel asked the NuMI management to take a closer look at costs associated with the technical components of the NuMI beamline. Fermilab responded by assigning additional managers and engineers to review the work still to be done.

At the start of last month's review, Dixon Bogert, NuMI project manager, presented the results of the studies and gave more precise numbers for the re-baseline proposal.

"Including adequate contingency funds, the expected deficit is 28.4 million dollars," Bogert told the Lehman committee. "We estimate the new total cost of the project to be 167.8 million dollars, about a 20 percent increase."

The framework of the new project schedule greatly depends on the underground excavation currently under way.

"Based on the progress made so far, we expect a finishing date for the NuMI excavation after April 2002, possibly as late as September," said Bogert. "We expect the end date of the complete NuMI project to shift as a result. Our next review in August will determine the new schedule."

The safety record of the underground construction was another focus of the review.

"We put a lot of pressure on the contractor to improve safety training and procedures," said Fermilab Director Mike Witherell.

Although the project has not had a lost-time accident since March, the total number of accidents during the tunneling effort concerned review panel members and Fermilab managers alike, and the Lehman committee recommended a further strengthening of safety measures.

"There is no aspect of the NuMI project more important than safety underground," said Witherell. "We are taking additional steps to bring the level of safety in the tunneling effort up to the standard we expect in every aspect of laboratory and subcontractor operations."

Engineering resources added

In recent years, Fermilab made Collider Run II with its great discovery potential the laboratory's highest priority, leaving few resources for other projects. The completion of the new Main Injector in 1999ˇbuilt on time and on budgetˇfailed to free many resources for the NuMI project, because of the continuing number of Run II-related tasks and other projects. The punctual start of Run II in March finally allowed Fermilab to assign additional manpower and expertise to the NuMI project.

"The project has been hampered by the lack of engineering resources," said Bruce Baller, who joined the NuMI management team in February. "Recently, however, the NuMI project has seen a dramatic increase in engineering. It has resulted in obtaining better cost estimates for parts previously not looked at in much detail."

The detailed engineering analysis of the new beamline and its technical components revealed unexpected costs that account for a large fraction of the total cost increase.

"The engineering of the technical components is not as advanced as we would like it to be," said Ron Lutha, the local DOE project manager. "We need to make sure we will not have further cost increases. What does it take to do that? People, in essence. The laboratory has been making steps in this direction."

The Lehman review team, concerned that a few more months of engineering might uncover additional costs, scheduled the additional review in August to give engineers and managers an extra two months to verify budgets.

"The NuMI project is a technical and managerial challenge," confirmed Lehman. "With all the other projects going on at the labˇRun II, CDF and DZero upgrades, contributions to LHCˇthis project has suffered."

Good news from "up north"

Project manager Bogert also had good news to report to the Lehman committee. Work at the northern end of the NuMI project, in Soudan, Minnesota, is progressing well.

"Outfitting of the underground halls for the far detector started in December 2000," Bogert told the committee. "The Lakehead Company has maintained its schedule, and contract completion is scheduled for July 19, 2001. Steel for the far detector has been ordered, and the first steel will be delivered soon."

MINOS Hall at the Soudan Underground Lab A newly excavated cavern, MINOS Hall, will house the 6,000-ton detector, which consists of almost 500 octagonal planes of steel, separated by layers of plastic scintillator.

"We have 5,000 tons of steel and another 1,000 tons of scintillator to deal with," said Earl Peterson, director of the Soudan Underground Laboratory. "To move those around efficiently and ˝ even more so ˝ safely we rely on eight crane systems. Seven have been installed so far."

To bring all this material into the mine, the MINOS collaboration uses a half-mile-deep access shaft, requiring many trips to lower detector components. Bill Miller, lab manager at Soudan, enthusiastically described progress so far.

"Things are really coming together beautifully," he said. "All steel handling will be in place next week, and soon all electrical systems will be done. In July, we can start building the detector, which will take about two and a half years. Manpower is probably the biggest roadblock we're facing. Right now, we have a mine crew of 16 people. We want to have 35 people by the end of August."

Detectors are on Track

Chris Laughton(left) explains NuMI excavation to Dougal McCreath. The panel found that the costs of the two MINOS detectors, part of the total NuMI project cost, are well under control. In fact, Aesook Byon-Wagner, MINOS project manager, is optimistic that the construction of the detectors will be well within budget and on schedule.

"There is a chance that not all of the contingency funding for the near and far detectors will be used," she told the Lehman committee.

Byon-Wagner gave an outlook on the installation of the far detector.

"The limited access to the Soudan Underground Laboratory calls for careful planning," said Byon-Wagner. "Last year, we established a detector project plan that has more than 200 trackable milestones. We have already met about 50 of them."

Seventeen different institutions are building parts of the detectors. The MINOS collaboration is content with the progress and is looking for ways in which its international team of 180 physicists and engineers can help out with non-detector problems. The collaboration has already begun extensive efforts in the beam design work.

"The detector effort is in good shape today," said Stan Wojcicki of Stanford University, spokesperson of the collaboration. "We can shift resources toward participation in beam area activities."

Crucial two months ahead

The Lehman committee affirmed that the NuMI project will provide important new experimental capabilities for the national high-energy physics research program. To move NuMI forward, the panel wants to establish the new project baseline by Fall of this year, requesting extra congressional funding for fiscal year 2003. To meet this goal will require a strenuous two-month effort from Fermilab.

"The project needs to increase pace and validate the cost estimates," said Roy Cutler of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, member of the review committee. "There still are large uncertainties in the costs of several of the NuMI technical components."

The panel also emphasized the need for improvements in procurement, safety and contract management. Laboratory management is responding by assigning more personnel and making organizational changes.

"We will fix the administrative aspectsˇsafety, procurement and construction managementˇ to give NuMI the best possible support as it addresses remaining technical difficulties," said Associate Director Bruce Chrisman.

Witherell noted the particular challenges that underground construction presents to both the contractor and the laboratory.

"It is clear that we will have to devote increased attention to meeting these challenges," he said.

The Lehman committee asked Fermilab management to provide a refined cost estimate and schedule to DOE by July 31. On August 21-23, a subcommittee will conduct a focused DOE review of those results, with the aim of recommending a new baseline.

"NuMI/MINOS is an important component of the Fermilab scientific program for years to come," Witherell said. "We will do what it takes to successfully build and operate this unique facility for studying the physics of neutrinos.

On the Web:
http://www-numi.fnal.gov:8875 MINOS experiment and NuMI Beamline
http://www.sudan.umn.edu Soudan Underground Lab.
http://www.sudan.umn.edu/Albums/MINOS/Weekly_Photos/ Time-lapse movie of Soudan Hall outfitting.

last modified 6/4/2001 by C. Hebert   email Fermilab