World’s Largest Super Collider: Abandoned

abandoned supercollider

A supercollider is a large ring designed to accelerate particles of protons and anti-protons until they collide. Its purpose is to create large amounts of energy in a controlled and monitored environment.

In the mid 1980’s, the United States wanted to construct the largest particle collider in the world. But when the escalating costs across multiple revised estimates became financially insurmountable, the project was terminated before completion. Now, nineteen years after construction was terminated, it still sits abandoned and vacant.


Costs Kill Plan

What was to be called the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) began as an idea in 1983. Four years of lobbying resulted in the 1987 Congress approval of a bill earmarking a $4.4 billion dollar budget for the project.

A site in Texas was chosen, and in 1991 construction began on what was supposed to become the world’s largest super collider.

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.

Map It!

SSC abandoned supercollider*

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.


Why did the LHC succeed and the SSC fail?

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 the world’s largest super collider; being larger than the Large Hadron Collider, one would expect the SSC’s costs to 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 &



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

    • Way back when I worked for a living, I was a trucker in the area of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois I often talked to truckers gooing there. They weren’t allowed to say much about the project back then.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

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

    • 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.)

  6. 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).

  7. 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.)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • 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.

        • 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 @ and we can figure something out.
    It was fun while it lasted.

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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??

  19. Does anyone believe the super collider in Texas is really dead after the government spent over 2 billion dollars to build it? You don’t think the federal government would lie to the people do you? Famous quotes: I did not have sex with that woman Monica Luinskey!

  20. i once had a reading with a psychic in san antonio that was married to one of the big wig engineers/scientists at this collider. she had visions of parallel universes being overlapped because of these experiments…creating hell on earth. now here it is april 2015 and CERN is about to do just that.

  21. Still, a bit less than was spent, um, wasted on the also unused Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.

  22. Do not built a super collider what if it goes wrong and cound not be stop.
    so please don’t built it please i beg of you

  23. my brother 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 in Texas. Another case of short-sighted government policy and long term jobs shipped overseas

  24. I was a trucker for a large company and traveled in the area of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois. At that time I had no idea what was being built and even truckers delivering there knew little.
    Years later I found out what those super dupper tunnels were used for. As far as the one in northern Illinois, still haven’t heard whether anything is being done or if it’s just a waste of my tax dollars.

  25. Let’s figure this out. 1) The SSC would have produced brilliant (known unknown) innovations including (unknown unknowns) serendipitous discoveries, and 2) would have made the United States the “World Leader” in Quantum Studies and “New Physics”. 3) But “people said it would cost to much”. 4) All these inventions would lead directly to new Weapons. Ladies and Gentlemen. I saw Jodie Foster in “Contact”. to paraphrase a character, “Why build one bank busting project when you can build TWO?” Perhaps I am carrying cynicism past the Schwarchild Radius where I invert into a Pollyana, but is it possible this Waxahachie Superconductor Project was reassembled in a remote location (perhaps under the oceans?) as a highly classified Pentagon Project? And, the cherry on top is that Texas Politicians (and Alex Jones) are in Control of the Project. This makes MUCH more sense to me as it reaffirms my belief in human rationality, and the mammalian instinct to “carry a big stick”, but in total stealth.

  26. Colliders are not science inquiry tools… for example, the LHC is strong enough to generate a secondary magnetosphere. which will come in handy for the pole shift… China is building a new one, CERN is expanding to 100km. We abandoned our collider… then we built a new linear accelerator under the tevatron.

    • In the deep past, at some point, hominids observed that rocks were “inquiry tools”. Sophistication progressed. Spears were next. Then pyramids (for stargazing on the spinning Earth). Then electromagnets. Followed by Cathode Ray Tubes. Finally, today, Hadron Colliders. And the juicing blender. Each one of these artifacts produce a “field effect”, like a demolition derby of ricocheting or spinning “pieces” that tells us a bit about the world. I want my own magnetosphere.

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