WASHINGTON - It's always good news when Congress takes big steps to help boost scientific research. And it's even better when those steps lean on Michigan's world-class research universities.
That's why two recent developments involving a major science investment at Michigan State University are so important: the Department of Energy's approval in early August of cost and construction timelines for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, and committee approval in both the Senate and House of appropriations bills that included full funding for FRIB in 2014. The $55 million in funding for FRIB, if it receives final approval, would clear the way for construction of the facility to begin next year.
Most importantly, these developments are good news for our quest to understand our natural world. FRIB is a $730 million project that will allow researchers to create and study rare elements that are not normally found on Earth. That holds enormous promise for helping physicists better understand the universe, and to harness the power of nuclear science for practical applications that can improve our standard of living, solve our energy challenges and grow the economy.
Sen. Carl Levin
Research funding is a relatively small portion of the federal budget, but it pays for itself many times over. From radio and television to the Internet and Google, technological innovations that have changed the world got their start thanks, at least in part, to federal research funding.
What makes this project doubly exciting is what it says about Michigan and our role in promoting that kind of innovation. The Department of Energy selected MSU in 2008 to host FRIB, cementing the university's status as one of the world's most important centers of nuclear research. For more than 60 years, MSU has been pushing the frontiers of nuclear knowledge. And since 1980, MSU's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory has conducted pioneering nuclear research through partnerships with the Department of Energy and other research institutions around the world.
That kind of research leadership was vital to winning the competition for FRIB. When complete, the facility will use incredibly powerful equipment to create atoms that don't naturally exist on Earth, and often remain intact for just fractions of a second. These atoms are of course far smaller than the eye can see, but by creating and studying them, scientists can answer questions about everything from the center of the universe's most powerful stars to treatments that can cure the most vexing human diseases.
FRIB will bring benefits to Michigan beyond this groundbreaking research. The project will create hundreds of permanent jobs in our state, as well as hundreds of jobs during construction, and contribute an estimated $1 billion to the Michigan economy in its first decade.
The benefits, for Michigan and the country, should be obvious. But the work of ensuring that FRIB meets these goals isn't over yet. The Department of Energy approval and actions by appropriations committees in both chambers of Congress are a good start, but I'll be working in the Senate with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and with members of Michigan's delegation in the House to make sure funding passes both chambers. And, because FRIB will take several years to complete, we will need to keep working to ensure that Congress provides the funding necessary to build and operate the facility.
Still, we've achieved another major milestone for FRIB, which is vital to America's preeminence in nuclear research and an important investment in Michigan. I'm grateful for this recognition of FRIB's value to the nation, and I will continue to work to ensure that this funding receives final approval and FRIB continues moving forward.