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Officials seek public comment on FRIB plans

November 11, 2009

State and government officials expressed little concern about the environmental impact of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, during a meeting Wednesday to address the planned facility’s possible impacts.

The U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, sought public input at a meeting held on campus to gauge concerns about possible impacts on air and water quality, among others.

FRIB is a $550 million dollar nuclear research facility planned at MSU that will use cutting-edge technology to allow researchers to study rare atoms, or isotopes.

Peter Siebach, a National Environmental Policy Act compliance officer for the DOE, said any concerns at the meeting will be considered in project plans.

“We like to ask the local community what their thoughts are,” he said. “Frankly, no, we’re not seeing anything that we believe would have a significant impact on the environment.”

Thor Strong, the section chief of the Radiological Protection Section for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said he is not worried about environmental harm.

“To this point, I think the project poses really no environmental concerns from the basis of our department, in terms of water quality (and) air quality,” he said. “It’s a very clean project, from most perspectives I can see.”

Small amounts of radiation that could be emitted by the facility also are expected to present minimal problems, he said.

“Knowing what we know at this point, I think radiological concerns are negligible, as well,” Strong said.

Paul Caruso, a Lansing resident, attended an informational session held before the meeting to give the public background on the FRIB project.

“When it comes to the environmental impact, I know these guys got it pretty well at hand,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any real concern about environmental impact here.”

The scoping meeting is a normal occurrence, FRIB Project Director Thomas Glasmacher said.

“Whenever the federal government makes a major investment, they need to assess the impact of the investment on the environment,” he said.

The DOE will spend four to six months preparing an environmental assessment and then will share the results with the public, Siebach said.

Any large construction projects such as FRIB have potential for problems to arise during construction, he said.

“Certainly, with any large construction project there’s the potential for accidents,” Siebach said.

The comment period for FRIB’s environmental assesment will end in December, Siebach said.

Although he does not feel FRIB’s construction and operation will harm the environment, Siebach said there still is work to be done.

“We’re going to take a closer look to see if we’re right about our hunch,” he said.

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