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Published: Thursday, 12/11/2008

Michigan State University awarded nuclear physics facility


LANSING, Michigan The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday chose Michigan State University for a $550 million cutting-edge nuclear physics research facility that could attract top scientists from around the world and boost the state's economy.

The facility, which would be built within 10 years, could spark scientific breakthroughs affecting medicine, national defense research and the environment.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the announcement signals a commitment from the U.S. government to the science involved in the new technology. Funding for construction of the new facility still must be secured through Congress.

"This is wonderful news," Stabenow said. "This could not come at a more critical time for us as we're struggling with our economy."

Michigan State had been competing with Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois for the facility for rare isotope beams. Thursday's announcement culminates a process that started in 1996 when a long-range plan first recommended the development of a next-generation nuclear structure and astrophysics facility as a high priority.

The project would involve technology to accelerate subatomic particles to high speeds and collide the resulting beams with fixed targets. The research related to energy and matter could be key to developments in medicine and national defense.

The project, which may add hundreds of construction jobs, had been sought for several years but often was delayed by the federal government.

The project is called the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Michigan State lobbied intensely for the project, even hanging a banner on campus and urging Spartan football fans to support efforts to "Bring FRIB to Our Crib."

Michigan's congressional delegation said the effort paid off.

"A massive effort to highlight Michigan State University's unique capability paid off for MSU, Michigan and the nation," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon said the FRIB will build on the successes of the school's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

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