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Curiosity: the underground low-noise laboratory of the Luberon

The scientific pearl of the luberon inherited from the Cold War in Rustrel

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Curiosity: the underground low-noise laboratory of the Luberon
At the end of the preceding century, it was only a matter of time that, in general indifference, he never saw the light of day. About fifteen years later, representatives of the state, local elected representatives and general councilors rivaled formulas to praise the existence of the Underground Low-noise Laboratory (LSBB) and to be enthusiastic about its potential for development.

Implemented in the installations of the former terrestrial launch site of nuclear missiles on the plateau of Albion - built in the late 1960s as France developed its nuclear arsenal - the "Rustrel nugget", as some call it, has unique characteristics in the world. Its 1 km tunnel is buried 500 m underground in the middle of the largest underground water resource in the Mediterranean. It is because it is a sort of geological replica of its oil fields in the Arabian Peninsula that the Total giant conducts research there.

But above all, its tunnel is built to resist any type of military aggression hosted the armored capsule in which shooting officers were relieved 24 hours a day during the Cold War. Earth radiation, magnetic field, ballistic attack, nothing can reach this vault of 1,250 cubic meters nested at 518 m depth in the mountains.

A little like the tombs of the pharaohs in their pyramids. "The magnetic field inside is 100 times lower than that of a brain at rest, this allows recordings of exceptional quality," summarizes Stéphane Gaffet, director of the LSBB. Its characteristics unique in the world are of interest to many disciplines: seismology, medicine, geomechanics, electronics ... and allow a fertile crossing.

Who to finance the 9 M €?
Today, this promising site, where 13 thesis projects are underway and which has welcomed 300 researchers throughout the year, Everything has to be renovated and reorganized and new equipment has to be installed to bring it up to full power and increase its research capabilities.

A project in this direction is ready: we need to set up new confidentiality devices, reorganize workspaces by removing them from the gallery to install them on an external platform, improve acoustic separation, and equip new equipment : seismic sensors, muon cameras, neutron spectrometer, magnetometer ... All for a budget of 9 M € over six years that still have to be found.

Discrete in essence, the low-noise laboratory now wants to be talked about and resound to the high place in order to obtain the financing necessary for its development. The LSBB officials have been working for a few weeks to convince the various partners to put in the pot. Last week, a meeting was held at the General Council.

Already, it seems clear that the project will be included in the next state-region plan contract. European funds are also expected in the amount of € 3 million. But the LSBB will not be able to avoid the recasting of its governance in the eyes of the prefect of Vaucluse.

Owned by a community of communes, the LSBB brings together a large number of actors from the scientific world. "There are a lot of partners, it's not easy to identify a leader. We'll have to clarify that," said Yannick Blanc.

Romain Cantenot

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