Centre national de la recherche scientifique Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives
Université Savoie Mont Blanc Université Joseph Fourier


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LSM - Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane

by Yannis Karyotakis - 8 March 2012

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The Modane Underground Laboratory (LSM) is a very low radioactive platform located 1700 m under the Fréjus Mountain. The LSM is a combined CNRS and CEA (and soon Université de Savoie) unit. The operating budget of the laboratory is 400 k€/year. The LSM staff is composed of 3 researchers and 11 engineers and technicians. Their charge is to operate the facility, to develop detectors for ultra-low radioactivity measurement and to provide support for the installation and maintenance of the experiments. More than 150 users from various countries (Russia, Czech Republic, UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Ukraine, Spain) are involved in the experiments hosted by LSM.
The site of the LSM is unique in Europe with a cosmic ray suppression factor of 2 000 000 and it is the second deepest laboratory in the world. The very low radioactive conditions allow hosting international experiments looking for very rare physical processes or very weak signals in particle, astroparticle and nuclear physics. A part of the LSM activities is dedicated to the development of ultra-low radioactivity techniques and measurements.
Presently, the LSM hosts two main experiments in neutrino physics (NEMO3) and dark matter search (EDELWEISS) which have obtained limits at the level of the best in the world in their field. There are also several R&D projects hosted in the laboratory like the SEDINE project for supernovae neutrino detection or the BiPo prototype to measure radioactivity of thin foil at the level of 1 µBq/kg.
A park of fourteen gamma spectrometers are installed at LSM for ultra-low radioactive material selection and environmental researches on oceanography, sediment, retro-observation, climate changes, This is done in particular with 2 laboratories of the Grenoble PRES, EDYTEM (Université de Savoie) and LGGE (Université de Grenoble).
Various fields of science are interested in low radioactive conditions of LSM. The micro-electronics academic and industrial laboratories use the LSM to test the effects of natural radiation on the circuits. The biologists study the development of bacteria to have a better understanding of the effect of natural radiation on the mutation process. Discussions are also in progress with geophysicist for the use of the platform.
The LSM is involved in the development of detectors to measure ultra-low level of radioactivity by gamma and alpha spectroscopy and also to monitor very low fluxes of neutrons and radon. This is done in collaboration with CENBG (Bordeaux I University), JINR Dubna (Russia), CTU Prague (Czech Republic) and Canberra Company. There are also developments on the electronics and acquisition required for such detectors. A radiochemistry activity is also developed for the environmental measurements.
The LSM leads the DOMUS Equipex project to build a new low radioactive platform 5 times bigger in volume than the existing one at LSM to be able to host the next generation of neutrino and dark matter experiments. An ultra-low radioactivity measurement pole will be created to develop environmental research and this project is associated to the CEMBRO Equipex driven by the Université de Savoie. Several foreign partners have written letters of intent to participate in this project.
The LSM is involved in education through lectures at the Grenoble IUT and training courses for students.
The LSM has an agreement of international associated laboratory with the JINR Dubna (Russia) and the Charles Technical University of Prague (Czech Republic).

See online : Official website