Lawmakers Say FRIB Funding is Top Priority

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By all accounts, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams project, or FRIB, is on track.

The facility reached another milestone Monday when the U.S. Department of Energy announced the project passed its assessments. Now it's ready for the next phase.

"I'm optimistic, I think we're on track, and yesterday's announcement is just further evidence of it," Senator Carl Levin (D), Michigan, said during a visit to Michigan State University on Tuesday.

While it's set to move forward, funding still leaves a big question mark. What was once $55 million for the nuclear science facility, went down to $22 million after a White House recommendation, and now sits at around $40 million. MSU President Lou Ann K. Simon said the delegation has been supportive.

"These projects are always going to have their ups and downs, but I think we're on a very productive and positive course," Simon said. "We just have to sustain the great science and make sure people continue to understand all across Michigan this is very imporant for the state of Michigan."

The delegates - on both sides of the aisle - say that's exactly what they're trying to do.

"This has been bipartisan across the delegation, everybody is for this because of the importance of the science itself, and the fact that we're going to be an international, a world leader in this science, right here in Lansing, Michigan. That's huge," said Representative Mike Rogers (R), Howell.

Sen. Levin said he's doing whatever it takes to bring this project the attention it deserves.

"The delegation has done everything we know how to do to make sure the administration knows the importance of this project," Sen. Levin said.

The construction on the project has begun, though most of it has been underground so far. The lawmakers said they look forward to the finished product.

"The science of this has national security implications," Rep. Rogers said. "It has nuclear science, the next generation of being able to detect bad things going on in your body. All of that is going to come out of this program, and that's why it's so important and worth an investment on behalf of the federal government to move this research forward."

The cutting edge science isn't the only benefit of the facility though.

"From our perspective, it's the jobs," Sen. Levin said. "The jobs for the state and the future of nuclear physics, which has been such a major part of Michigan State's past, that that will continue for Michigan State and the country."

Simon said she's had very productive meetings recently with the Department of Energy, and a funding strategy should be expected in the next few weeks.

The project is moving toward completion in 2019.

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