Utahns were disappointed Thursday by news that the Energy Department has selected Texas for the eagerly sought $4.4 billion supercollider atom smasher, but officials said the state still is likely to benefit from the project.
Energy Secretary John Herrington announced the selection of Texas, but Congress has yet to appropriate money to build the giant research installation.Seven states had vied for the project because of the economic benefits tied to the construction of the collider, a 53-mile underground ring of 10,000 magnets capable of smashingproton beams together with 20 times the force of the world's most powerful existing particle accelerator.
Utah was not one of the seven states, but state officials had hoped the federal government would select nearby Arizona. A study done at the University of Arizona said Utah could benefit from an estimated $277 million in contracts if the project were built in Arizona.
James J. Brophy, vice president for research at the University of Utah, said Utah companies would still likely be able to provide electronics and other research to help design the facility in Texas. However, Utah will not likely benefit from the construction contracts it could have gotten if the facility were built in Arizona.
"It's fair to say that Utah will benefit no matter where the project is located," Brophy said.
However, with the facility being built in Texas, Utah companies will not likely benefit anywhere near the $277 million estimate, he said. "I thought that figure was a little optimistic anyway."
Herrington said the Texas site - some 16,000 farm acres in Ellis County south of Dallas - was "superior" to the others.
The decision, he said, was based in part on site geology, regional resources and environmental criteria.
"The Texas proposal clearly received the highest overall technical evaluation ratings of any proposal and exhibited no significant overall weaknesses," Herrington said.
The six other contenders were Illinois, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee. They were chosen from a field of 25 bidding states by an independent panel appointed by the Energy Department.
Officials of some of the losing states, however, linked Texas' selection to Tuesday's election of George Bush, who lives in Texas, as president. "The Department of Energy made a decision ... based on politics rather than on merit and the good of the American taxpayer," said Sen. Alan Dixon, D-Ill. "I do not believe that the timing of this decision and its proximity to the election is a coincidence."
But Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas and the unsuccessful Democratic vice presidential candidate, said today's announcement made this "a wonderful day for our country and our state."