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US officials commit more funding to FRIB project

April 25, 2012

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, was thrown a $40 million lifeline in the search for funding to push the project forward at MSU.

The U.S. House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee released its funding bill Wednesday and recommends $40 million for the project. This is an $18 million increase from President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal that recommended $22 million, which was released in February.

Officials originally stipulated $55 million in committed funding from the Department of Energy for this phase of the about $600 million project to begin its construction. However, the phase must first be approved in a federal review, which is taking place this week, to begin its construction.

In a press release, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, praised the increased funding recommendation.

“MSU has long worked to make FRIB a centerpiece of America’s research profile and a critical part of Michigan’s economic future,” he said, adding with funding the project can help Michigan stand out for having a top-rated nuclear physics program.

Despite the proposed increase, Wednesday’s recommendation is not enough to some legislators.

“I’m angry at both President Obama’s recommendation … and angry that the Congress only wants to go with $40 million,” state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said. “We beat out the entire country as the best location, and they (promised) us some money.”

Jones said he would not be so angry if officials said the country is out of money, and they simply have to cut funding across the board. Instead, there remains a proposed U.S. commitment of $150 million — increased from $105 million — to fund the ITER nuclear fusion research project in France.

That multimillion dollar amount was announced in February within the president’s proposal.

“I don’t object to the studying of fusion, but I object to the American tax dollars going to France when it should be going to MSU,” Jones said.

University officials remain encouraged even with the fluctuating funding recommendations during the past few months.

“We can get by on this one,” said J. Ian Gray, vice president of research and graduate studies. “If you’re lower this year (in funding), you’ve got to, over the next two (to) three years, get the numbers up to make up for that.”

In addition to the House’s bill, the U.S. Senate version of the bill has recommended $30 million for FRIB, said Mark Burnham, MSU vice president for governmental affairs. The final number, given Congress’ approval, likely will come by the fall.

“We think both the House and the Senate bills mark a sign of tremendous support from Congress for FRIB,” Burnham said.

Campus editor Megan Durisin contributed to this report.

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