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FRIB project included in Obama’s budget

February 16, 2011

Editor’s note: This story was changed to accurately reflect the cost of FRIB

With the inclusion of a $30 million award from the Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s budget, the construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, moves one step closer to its expected completion in 2020.

Although the budget still needs approval from Congress, officials from MSU remain confident that the importance of the facility will be conveyed to legislators.

The money was specified in earlier negotiations and was used to shape the project’s budget, said Alex Parsons, FRIB’s Project Communications Manager.

“That request in the Department of Energy is consistent with the budget that was worked out,” Parsons said. “It’s not new — it’s not an increase.”

Completing FRIB will cost about $500 million, said J. Ian Gray, vice president for research and graduate studies. In the next 20 years, the project is expected to spur about $1 million in economic activity, he said.

Continuation of the facility is dependent on the approval of federal funding by Congress, Gray said. Government money constitutes the majority of funding for FRIB, although Michigan and the university also contribute to the budget, he said.

“That budget needs to be fully funded in order to keep the effort moving,” he said.

Despite the crippled economy, FRIB has remained a priority because it’s one of the highest research tools in maintaining American innovation, according to officials from the department.

“Investment in science is important because it drives the economic engine of our country,” Parsons said.

“Breakthroughs with basic science research yield huge returns.”

The research done with FRIB will give scientists the chance to research areas such as the physics of nuclei and nuclear astrophysics, which might lead to potential benefits to society in the areas of medicine, national security and the environment, Parsons said in an e-mail.

Progress in the preliminary phase is continuing as planned, he said.

Currently, the project is on schedule for its slated completion in 2020, said Thomas Glasmacher, FRIB Project Director for MSU.

“I’m very confident (in) the whole project … (and) that our plan is a good plan,” he said. “If we get (money from Congress), then we can deliver this project.”

Although the project remains under construction, researchers are working on developing ways rare isotopes can be used, Gray said.

FRIB will make the campus a hot spot for about 1,500 researchers from across the world.
“Researchers from all over the country and all over the world will (use FRIB),” Parsons said. “It will be one of a kind when it is done.”

The project represents a “huge success” for MSU, Gray said.

FRIB will help maintain MSU’s position as one of the top nuclear science graduate programs in the country and earn the university global recognition, he said.

“Completion will allow us to be one of the three (international) sites where scientists will study rare isotopes,” Gray said.

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“This is very important to the institute’s research reputation.”

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