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FRIB paces Department of Energy evaluations

July 3, 2012

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams is one step closer to construction after flying through two evaluations from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, or DOE-SC.

Last spring, the DOE-SC came to evaluate the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, measuring qualities such as management and design as part of Critical Decision 2 and 3a. It was determined that the “level of detail presented meets or, in some cases, exceeds that of a typical accelerator project,” DOE-SC’s review said.

Currently, FRIB is a government-funded facility on MSU’s campus developed so researchers can make discoveries about properties of isotopes, the physics of nuclei, astrophysics, fundamental interactions and applications to society.

The project still is in the planning and design phases, but because of the positive evaluation, construction could start as early as spring 2013, FRIB Project Director Thomas Glasmacher said.
“We have a good team and we don’t shy away from these reviews,” Glasmacher said. “It’s good to have accountability, and so far … I think we’re on a really good track.”

The phase following the evaluations will include completion of designs for an accelerator for the project and eventual construction of a tunnel to hold the accelerator.

FRIB Laboratory Director Konrad Gelbke said the accelerator is used to create isotopes that will be studied in FRIB.

“In order to produce the isotopes that we want to study, we need to take atomic nuclei and accelerate it to very high speeds — roughly half the speed of light,” Gelbke said. “The accelerator is the machine that takes atomic nuclei to that speed.”

Because creating the atomic nuclei involves radiation, it is necessary for a tunnel to be built below ground to hold the accelerator, he said. Radiation can be dangerous, and it is important to have as much material between the scientists and the machine as possible, he said.

Researchers are hoping speeding up the production of isotopes will provide more opportunities for greater in-depth research.

Gelbke said he has been working on the FRIB project for about a decade, and he was very excited to get the positive evaluation from DOE-SC.

“I think it is a super project we affirm over and over again as a top national priority for nuclear science in this country,” Gelbke said.

In a press release, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon also said she is pleased with the evaluations and what they mean for the future of FRIB.

“It is in the nation’s best interest that the project be completed, not only for the scientific discoveries it will make possible, but for the benefits to society realized through scientific results and technical developments.”

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