A bailout effort for the financially troubled Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) is looking to Asia for up to $2 billion to construct the giant physics machine in Texas.
A delegation led by Deputy Secretary of Energy Henson W. Moore is seeking help from Japan and South Korea to build the machine. Cost estimates for the project have ballooned from an original $4.4 billion to nearly $8 billion, and construction has yet to start.
The delegation, which includes Roy Schwitters, director of the SSC project in Waxahachie, Tex., was organized after a House committee put a $5 billion lid on the amount of money it will approve for the project.
Texas is putting up $1 billion, leaving a nearly $2 billion shortfall.
If the Asian governments agree to fund the machine, it would be the largest joint science project ever undertaken by the United States and a foreign government.
Physicists close to the project say they doubt that any foreign government would come up with cash for the SSC, but they might offer in-kind help. The Japanese, for example, might offer to build the powerful electromagnets needed to make the machine work.
While this would save money for the project, it is sure to infuriate members of Congress who see the super collider as a way to boost U.S. technology. Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) has said that foreign firms may be allowed to dig the tunnel for the SSC or string the wires, but that he expects the magnets to be built by U.S. contractors.
The super collider is designed to explore the nature of matter and energy by smashing subatomic particles into each other at extremely high energies.