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Dept. of Energy moves FRIB project forward

September 26, 2010

Recent approvals given by U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, officials for MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, nudges the multimillion dollar project closer to completion toward the end of the decade.

On Thursday, the FRIB project was issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI, status by the DOE. The project received critical decision 1 approval on Sept. 1, which establishes the design of the building to house the facility and the next phase’s cost.

Preliminary design on the facility will take shape starting in October and will last until 2012. That phase is expected to cost about $55 million, FRIB’s Project Communications Manager Alex Parsons said.

University officials can continue to construct the facility toward its slated 2020 completion at a cost of about $615 million, Parsons said.
Early completion of the project is expected in 2018.

“It was part of what was needed to happen to get the FRIB project moving forward and we are pleased about that,” Parsons said.

In November 2009, the DOE initiated an environmental study of the project by accepting input from the MSU community, said Brian Quirke, spokesperson for the DOE office in Chicago.

Addressing common concerns, such as whether a construction worker would be hurt or if work on the project would result in significant noise or dust, all were points of impact to clarify before the project moved forward, Quirke said.

“It’s not only construction,” he said. “It’s also the operation of the machine. This is a machine that has its own set of hazards attached. We needed to make sure the design and the operation did protect people (and) students in the area from any potential harm. We were satisfied that it would not (cause harm).”

During a March meeting with university officials, DOE representatives presented a document where DOE officials highlighted key points of contention from the November 2009 meeting in an attempt to minimize any potential impacts on the environment and surrounding people, Quirke said.

During the summer, MSU and the DOE held another meeting to discuss whether or not people would be affected. Nothing came up that would prevent the FRIB project from moving forward, he said.

“If there are any impacts, (we ask) ‘Can you litigate them?’” Quirke said. “In a lot of places where we build, there are wetlands. We say we’re going to mitigate the loss of a wetland by constructing the wetland in another spot.”

When construction is complete, about 1,500 scientists from across the globe will work with atomic nuclei and possibly could make discoveries on the origin of matter in the universe.

The project will be complete by critical decision 4, which will be given by the DOE in the final steps of project completion, Parsons said.

“Rare isotope science is a science that (is) not found on Earth,” Thomas Glasmacher, FRIB project director for MSU, said in a previous interview. “At this facility, we can make them or we can use them to study other things. (We could) figure out the structure of the atomic nuclei, what they’re made out of (and see) how are elements created.”

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