Sign of hope in isotope facility

Published 1:42 am Friday, December 26, 2008

By Staff
At a moment in our history when Michigan needs signs of hope, the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Energy to build the Facility on Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) at Michigan State University offers great hope for Michigan's economic future.
Indeed, the massive effort to highlight Michigan State University's unique capability in isotope research has paid off for the university, the State of Michigan and the entire nation.
The study of rare isotopes is a line of nuclear science research that involves creating atoms that are not normally found on Earth and that have unusual numbers of neutrons.
Such atoms are generally only created during dramatic celestial events, such as during the formation of stars in space.
The research offers enormous promise to help physicists further understand the universe and harness the power of nuclear science for practical applications.
Winning the FRIB presents a tremendous opportunity for Michigan. Designing and building the facility will be a $550 million undertaking sponsored by the Department of Energy.
The Department of Energy estimates that the facility will provide research opportunities for an international community of approximately 1,000 university and laboratory scientists, postdoctoral associates and graduate students.
It will also create construction jobs and ongoing administrative and support jobs as well.
A study by the Anderson Economic Group indicates that the project will spur $1 billion in economic activity, new earnings for workers of $446 million during construction and over $187 million in state tax revenue over 20 years of FRIB operations
Still, those numbers barely convey what an outstanding development this is for Michigan's future.
The FRIB will lead to amazing new educational opportunities at Michigan State University, and it will bring additional talent to the state.
It will build on the successes of the existing world-class National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), which has already put MSU at the forefront of nuclear science research.
The NSCL has achieved world renown as hundreds of scientists have used the facility for nuclear physics.
It is also widely recognized for the innovations in particle accelerators that have originated there.
Thanks to this record, MSU produces 10 percent of our nation's nuclear physics doctoral degree graduates.
The FRIB will bring additional interest to the university's graduate programs.
And MSU will continue to promote programming at the NSCL that opens the world of nuclear science to students as young as elementary school age.
The most exciting aspects of this announcement are the possibilities for discovery at the new facility.
Beyond helping scientists understand the structure of the universe and the origins of matter, rare isotope research can contribute to fields including nuclear physics, astrophysics and biology.
And there are potential commercial applications of the research that can be helpful in creating new medical tools and treatments, improving food safety and helping environmental protection.
The FRIB holds enormous promise for improving lives and fueling economic growth.
It is great news for Michigan, and it will continue to pay dividends for our state and our nation for decades to come.