By Brandon Howell
March 13, 2012
The Michigan Senate Committee on Energy and Technology on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on Congress to restore funding for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University.
State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who introduced the resolution, made plain his intentions.
“I think it’s clear we’re here today to tell the federal government it’s time to go green,” he said.
Jones introduced the resolution last month after President Barack Obama presented his proposed 2013 budget, which included $22 million for the FRIB at MSU — less than half of the $55 million originally designated for the project.
Jones specifically called into question “drastic cuts” to the FRIB project while budgeting $150 million for a thermonuclear project in France.
“What we’re asking in this resolution is don’t spend one dime of hard-earned taxpayer money in France until you’ve finished the FRIB here,” Jones said.
His colleagues adopted the resolution by a 9-0 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor for a vote before the entire chamber.
Patrick Anderson, principal and CEO of Anderson Economic Group, testified before the committee that the FRIB is estimated to create 800 full-time construction jobs and another 4,200 one-year construction jobs.
The facility itself will create 400 “high-paying” full-time positions, he said.
“This was a super project when we first got involved,” Anderson said. “We hope the federal government still sees it that way. All of us here in Michigan should be aware of these enormous benefits.”
Anderson Economic Group projected the FRIB will create more than $1 billion in economic activity for the Greater Lansing region over 20 years.
But if the funds are not spent on the FRIB, they will certainly be spent on similar scientific projects in other countries, Anderson said, meaning lost jobs and revenue.
The facility will allow nuclear scientists to study rare isotopes, unstable atoms that offer clues as to how the universe evolved. Additional applications for such research include astrophysics, medicine, national security, manufacturing, environmental science and material science.
Mark Burnham, MSU vice president for governmental affairs, testified that the FRIB is “a game-changer in science.”
“This facility will help us push the boundary of science knowledge,” he said. “This will be the most powerful rare isotope facility in the world.”
Burnham told the Senate committee MSU needs $40 million to construct and complete a tunnel 700 feet underground for the FRIB. He said thus far, the university has met every requirement made for the project, which continues to be “well-managed.”
Burnham said if the FRIB does not come to fruition at MSU, its resources will be lost to Germany and Japan.
“They will overtake our labs as world-leading,” he said. “Those scientists will flock to Asia and Europe because that’s where the work will be.”
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, expressed disappointment in lessened federal funding for the FRIB, particularly in contrast to the considerably greater funding for the project in France.
“We’ve taken money out of the pocket of the home team, if you will,” he said. “For me, I’m one that wants to work with the home team. I’m not all that interested in European basketball, I’m interested in Spartan basketball, so let’s keep it for the home team.”
Despite lessened funding, the project is still expected to be completed by 2020, according to the Department of Energy’s budget.
Ground is expected to be broken in the summer. The facility will be located adjacent to MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, which is near the corner of Shaw Lane and Bogue Street.
MSU and the state’s congressional delegation waged an intense campaign for the FRIB, overcoming competition from the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.
Jones said the FRIB is vital to the future of the nation’s medical research and national security.
“This is going to be the science for probably the next century,” said Jones, who served on the committee that helped win the FRIB project for MSU. “It’ll detect diseases in the body, it’ll detect terrorists in the airports.”
Jones said he intends to send the resolution to Congress and Obama.
“We beat out the entire country,” Jones said. “This was chosen as the best place in the world.”