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Home > Abandoned - Explained, Amazing, Americas, Creepy, Explained, Financial, Government, World's Most > World’s Largest Super Collider: Abandoned

World’s Largest Super Collider: Abandoned

A supercollider is a large ring designed to accelerate particles of protons and anti-protons until they collide, the purpose being to create high amounts of energy. In the mid 1980’s, the United States wanted to construct the largest particle collider in the world. What was to be called the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) began as an idea in 1983.

By 1987 Congress had approved the $4.4 billion dollar budget for the project, and by 1991 a site had been chosen in Texas and construction began.

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By 1993 the cost projection had risen to over $12 billion. With limited financial resources, the U.S. government was forced to choose between funding the International Space Station (ISS) or the super particle collider. Congress approved funding for the ISS and on October 21, 1993, the SSC project was cancelled.

When the project was cancelled, 14 miles of tunnels and 17 shafts had already been dug, as well as all surface structures completed.

Total spent: $2 billion.

 

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

After project cancellation, the site was given to Ellis County Texas. Numerous attempts to sell the property failed until 2006, when a private investment group finally purchased the property. It was rumored there were plans to use the SSC as a tier III or IV data center, but in 2011 the property still sat derelict and abandoned.

All of the collider equipment has been removed except for some underground generators in the tunnels.

For perspective, the largest currently operating particle accelerator is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. CERN LHC’s collision energy output of 14 TeV (Trillion electron-Volts) is dwarfed by the planned output of 40 TeV for the Superconducting Super Collider.

So why did construction of the LHC succeed where the SSC failed?

CERN’s construction of the Large Hadron Collider on a property that already had tunnels was a big factor; excavating millions of tons of earth proved to be the most expensive part of the construction process.

In addition, the SSC was intended to be much larger than the Large Hadron Collider, so naturally costs would be higher. It was the unforeseen costs that would grow exponentially in size along with the project that would do the SSC in.

The largest completed particle collider in the United States also happens to be the third largest in the world: the Tevatron, completed in 1983 at a cost of $120 million, is located at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois.

The Tevatron is much smaller in scale than the Superconducting Super Collider; it only produces 1 TeV at maximum output.

Unfortunately due to budget cuts, the Tevatron at Fermilab ceased operations in October of 2011. The costs associated with operating a collider – even on a smaller scale – outweigh the benefits in today’s budget landscape.

The second-largest collider in the world is now the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), run by Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in New York.

Before & after

 

Pictures courtesy of Jim Merithew & AmusingPlanet.com

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  1. king_hil
    January 31, 2012 at 17:50

    the SSC should have contacted my garden-crazed mom. she would have excavated millions of tons of earth for free!

    • Fyoris Satar
      July 13, 2013 at 19:21

      Hahaha I laughed!

  2. Adam
    February 1, 2012 at 08:08

    Love this blog. Keep it up.

  3. February 1, 2012 at 23:09

    We could sure use an office chair…

  4. Brock
    February 7, 2012 at 17:15

    Also loving this blog. All these posts are great time wasters at work. Keep em coming!

  5. Concerned Citizen
    March 25, 2012 at 01:39

    Actually I think this facility was purchased right around the time this article was published. I think it was bought by Magnablend. Remember last October 3rd the giant explosion at a chemical plant in Waxahachie, Tx?

    it was all over the news globally. Well under the guise of “keeping jobs local” the Commissioner’s court secretly passed resolutions to lift deed restrictions on the property, no company requiring a TCEQ permit was allowed to operate there and then started raising the weight limits on the roads to accommodate the chemical trucks.

    The SSC sits in the middle of residential areas and farm land. The Magnablend company receives violations with TCEQ at their powder blending facility and hundreds of fish and other aquatic life died where they were dumping the run-off water from putting out their explosion and inferno on Oct. 3rd…which they still have not cleaned up nor will they recognize that people living in the nearby area were made sick from the toxic smoke the fire created.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/waxahachie-chemical-plant-fire-pictures_n_994073.html

  6. S Marck
    March 28, 2012 at 10:36

    I live about 4 miles from this site, and about 10 miles from the now vacant Magnablend facility. I am NOT happy that Magnablend will be operating out of this facility. There is a dairy farm literally across the street, as well as a boarding stable for horses and numerous other beef and dairy cattle operations within the perimeter. Of course, as things are, money will always trump concern and the Magnablend facility will end up here despite the possible environmental effects to the surrounding area.

  7. Harry McGinn
    November 28, 2012 at 04:41

    Was it really abandoned and the project lost funding or did the events of the popular game Half-Life occur in the tunnels underground here?

  8. hary potter
    November 28, 2012 at 05:35

    Is this the Apeture Science Enrichment Center ?

  9. Adam Glass
    November 28, 2012 at 06:11

    There is a very good fiction book based on this place. It’s called A Hole in Texas, by Herman Wouk. Excellent read.

    • wdangst
      November 28, 2012 at 11:12

      Read this and concur. I mean, the guy has won a nobel prize.

    • March 24, 2013 at 09:12

      interesting – I’ll definitely look for the book – (hint to family and friends – I love to read herman Wouk novels – always on an interesting subject.)

  10. ?
    November 28, 2012 at 07:18

    anyone else think this could be one of the most ideal locations for a zombie apocalypse

  11. RJA
    November 28, 2012 at 07:56

    I have actually been to this place about 3 years ago. Pretty cool to find out what it actually is. Good stuff!

  12. November 28, 2012 at 08:26

    bike park / skate park?

  13. November 28, 2012 at 10:42

    If both Europe and the US had collaborated on this project (Like ISS) the world could have had a collider 10x more energetic than the LHC, and would still be significantly more so even with the new 2014 upgrade. It would have been 3x the circumference… how much equipment could have been placed in that space? Think of the scientific impact that could have had? Rather then get all “Herpy derpy we are better” be sad that the information this could lead to will not be discovered for at least another 7-10 years (LCH phase 2 will bring about significant changes).

  14. RYAn
    November 28, 2012 at 11:33

    With all this structure present, why didnt they use this site to build the LHC?

    • November 28, 2012 at 22:40

      Because there was already a lot of related equipment at the CERN site where the LHC was built.

  15. November 28, 2012 at 14:39

    What a waste of money… It’s too bad.

  16. dawg
    November 28, 2012 at 17:31

    Dr. Toll left this project and then became President of Washington College

  17. A Particle Physicist
    November 29, 2012 at 03:50

    Some corrections:

    eV = electroN-volt (not electro-volt), since it’s the amount of energy gained by an electron over a potential difference of 1 volt.

    The Tevatron reached 2 TeV, not 1.

    RHIC is a heavy ion collider. If you consider heavy ions “particles,” you’re a chemist.

    (Also to one comment: the larger ring would not have meant more space for experiments. It would have been filled with accelerator-ring equipment. The limiting factor for the experiments is the useable [integrated] luminosity. However the 40-TeV energy reach already by the mid 90s would mean physics would be 20 years further down the road than it is now, experimentally speaking.)

    • JW
      September 27, 2014 at 15:46

      I was seriously wondering when someone would bring up this issue.

  18. December 9, 2012 at 22:54

    I actually have a science fiction project set in this location, Schrodinger’s Heroes. Someone bought it and finished it, and a mishap turned it into a dimensional portal. Much adventure follows. Many quantum science tidbits have found their way into the stories, poems, and other material.

    Thank you SO MUCH for this article and photos. This will be very helpful in adding further detail to the project. I’m always looking for more information on the Waxahachie supercollider.

  19. December 21, 2012 at 18:14

    Best. Urbex. Location. Evar.

    Why do I have to live all the way over in the UK…

  20. trevor
    May 3, 2013 at 04:42

    didn’t stargate command take it over in their battle against the replicators

  21. Bill
    May 3, 2013 at 06:56

    One of the first visible signs I thought of the scientific disengagement that the US has been going through for the last 20 years or so. Unless it is entertainment or sports driven, forget it.

  22. Robert Kriegar
    June 23, 2013 at 23:18

    I’ll give them a buck for the place-better than setting abandoned!

    • Mikey
      August 23, 2013 at 17:56

      Taxes would kill the ‘such a deal’ deal

  23. Muggs McGinnis
    August 12, 2013 at 18:28

    The entire disaster started when Texas insisted on having it. It was supposed to be built at Fermilab near Batavia, IL. The Fermilab ring could be used to provide a large portion of the initial boost to the particles, making the new, larger ring simpler and cheaper. It wouldn’t need to be designed to operate over nearly so large a range of frequencies or energies… it wouldn’t need to deal with particles until they had been pre-accelerated and collimated. We have genius experts who know the Fermilab machine. We could have used it to calibrate the new, big device. Instead, the same political force that required us to duplicate all launch control functions of NASA in Houston for no reason but for uncounted hundreds of billions of dollars.

    • Muggs McGinnis
      August 12, 2013 at 18:36

      Sorry, I mistyped… I meant to finish by pointing out that we had to duplicate Cape Kennedy’s launch and flight control in Houston because of Texas political power. Until the SSC fiasco, I had just thought it was a deal LBJ had forced through. When science was crucified on the alter of political corruption in the form of the SSC, I was really surprised. The sad thing about politics is that no matter how cynical I find I’m getting, it becomes obvious I haven’t been cynical enough.

      • August 15, 2013 at 16:30

        Ha, I love your last sentence. Interesting thoughts you’ve added – and fair points. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

        • Terry
          August 16, 2013 at 15:52

          GAO found that: (1) DOE chose the 21 committee members to ensure that it had sufficient expertise to evaluate site proposals against the site selection criteria and disqualified any person associated with a specific proposal; (2) eight members had associations with one of the proposed sites; (3) the committee members evaluated the proposals against technical and cost criteria in their order of importance; (4) site visits were impractical due to the selection schedule, the number of sites, and members’ other commitments, and were unnecessary because the committee believed that all proposals were well-written and complete; (5) the committee did not use costs to discriminate between the proposed sites because proposed costs for all sites were within 3.3 percent of the average proposed cost; (6) the committee believed that the comparable costs weakened its ability to determine sites’ expected costs; (7) DOE accepted the committee’s list of best-qualified sites after making its own assessment; and (8) although states were generally satisfied with the invitations for site proposals, some states would have either selected alternative sites or better assessed their available resources if DOE had indicated the relative importance of the criteria.

  24. Sam Webb
    September 15, 2013 at 11:07

    I live right in waxahachie about 6 miles from the entrance!

  25. Dale from Dallas
    October 8, 2013 at 13:33

    I worked on this project for 2+ years in the early 90’s. It still saddens me to think what could have been. I read in the paper today about the Nobel prize winning physicists who theorized about the Higgs boson, which was later discovered at the CERN collider in France. That discovery (and others) should have happened here in Texas. Another case of short-sighted government policy and long term jobs shipped overseas.

    • November 4, 2013 at 22:00

      Hello Dale, thanks for stopping by and sharing this. I appreciate hearing additional information directly from the source!

  26. John Langstrand
    November 3, 2013 at 09:40

    Hi,
    My name is John Langstrand. I worked at the SSC in the LLRF feedback group from the beginning to the end. I have a whole bunch of information, posters, books and swag, everything from the site specific to my motorcycle license plate “SSC”. If anyone wants a copy of anything SSC, please E-Mail me @ janfalas@msn.com and we can figure something out.
    It was fun while it lasted.

    • November 4, 2013 at 22:02

      John, thanks for stopping by and volunteering your contact information. I’m sorry to hear the project wasn’t more of a success; hopefully everyone learned from it.

  27. November 10, 2013 at 21:23

    Corporate lobbyists shut down the project. The project threatened the oil and pharmaceutical industries. Superconducting technology was going to be transferred into energy production which threatened the oil companies and the LINAC technology was going to eliminate the need for many prescription drugs. I was also there first in Desoto and then in Waxahachie. After the shutdown Ann Richards transferred some of the key people and equipment down to UT but that did not last long. The USA would have been the elite in technology if the project was funded. According to Roy Schwitters at the large meetings the project was only running over cost and behind schedule because Clinton’s Chief of Staff and Budget Director Leon Panetta forced a delay in the project. So by delaying the project by a few years all contracts at the time had to be cancelled or delayed which equated to renegotiations with supplier and vendors which led to higher costs and delays. If they had just run the course without Panetta’s advice the project would have been under budget and within the schedule means. What the SSC was going to receive was billions of $ from foreign nations after the first ring was completed. So in the long run the project would have been profitable. The difference in cost to shutdown the SSC vs keeping it going to completion was not much.

    • November 10, 2013 at 21:26

      If you need more information let me know, thanks.

    • John Langstrand
      November 11, 2013 at 05:14

      Joe is exactly correct. In fact there was talk about bringing up only the Linac for medical purposes. As for the budget he is also exactly correct. To add to that, Mr. Al Gore came to our site and held a huge meeting, in it he told us that Pres Clinton and himself were 100% behind the project and the he was proud that we were under budget and ahead of schedule. Two months later they cut our budget to salaries only and a year later told us that we needed to be shut down because we were behind schedule and over budget. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

      • November 13, 2013 at 11:30

        Thank you both for adding this to the discussion. Sounds like the kind of insight one generally wouldn’t read in the newspapers. Cheers.

  28. December 6, 2013 at 16:02

    So this is were America’s tax Money goes? Abandoned Supercolliders???

  29. Gary Conway
    December 12, 2013 at 16:56

    I worked there until the bitter end. The Dems in Congress in the Fall of 1993 wanted to punish their opponents. What better way to accomplish this than to kill one plum of a project located in a Republican state? They didn’t seem to care that by doing so the USA was immediately reduced to second class status in the world of high energy physics. Cynical? You bet I am. Especially since Roy and the DOE could have saved the project by simply changing its name. Rather than the pompous “Superconducting Super Collider”, it should have been renamed the small and insignificant “Martin Luther King High Energy Research School”. The government could not have thrown enough money at this project! No, I’m not a Republican. And please do not think of this as a racially based comment. It’s simply an observation of this country’s whacked out political reality.

    It was truly an honor to work at the SSC. Had I an income from another source, I would have worked there for free just to see what happened next. It was that kind of place.

  30. George Borys
    January 2, 2014 at 09:25

    The “shutdown” of the SSC project required the “filling in” of the still open excavations. Unfortunately, there were now cute little desert critters living on the dug-up mounds of soil, and the environmental activists were able to convince the powers-that-be to leave the critters in peace, and truck in caravans of fill soil from out of state. The added costs for this “environmentally friendly” methodology approximately equaled the original system completion costs. But it made the tree huggers happy.

    • January 2, 2014 at 21:59

      Great insight George, thanks for sharing. That’s definitely something the outside observer wouldn’t have known or considered.

  31. January 27, 2014 at 18:30

    I lived in Texas when this all sank. You can’t imagine the political commotion over this. The money, jobs, the loss of something big. Texans love big and being the only ones with something. They didn’t take this well.

  32. Reba Hayne
    February 26, 2014 at 11:30

    We have some of the tunnel air pipes coming up from the ground behind us. Ugly as hell, I find creepy. Rusted from lack of care. I guess those will always stay there?! Anyone know any more about what they really are or what their function was? They look like a sea buoy coming out the the ground. I see them in other pasture fields not far from our home too.

  33. March 13, 2014 at 22:23

    Reblogged this on FLOW OF WISDOM | SEAN ANTHONY.

  34. Earth Angel
    April 1, 2014 at 19:36

    I agree with Gilbert- who the hell ok’s these projects to be funded with our tax money??? Certainly not the people in the areas where they build these monstrosities that end up like this one did. I never even heard of this before!! Just imagine if the money was left in the hands of the people who earned it in the first place–no telling how much good it could have done and how many lives might have been improved. It is sickening how many billions are wasted or stolen down the tubes with a giant sucking sound. It makes me sick to live on a planet where this kind of crap is happening everywhere, everyday. How did we come to this??

  35. Montana Hall
    July 4, 2014 at 00:42

    How do I find this place?

  1. March 7, 2014 at 06:46
  2. August 4, 2014 at 14:54
  3. September 27, 2014 at 08:16

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