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Scientists lobby Congress for MSU nuclear science facility

Brad Sherrill, chief scientist of MSU's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams
Courtesy MSU
Brad Sherrill, chief scientist of MSU's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams

Scientists from across the nation are in Washington today. They’re asking Congress to support Michigan State University’s $600 million nuclear science facility.

The scientists want lawmakers to declare MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams a national priority, and to keep funding intact.

Brad Sherrill is chief scientist of what’s called F-RIB. He believes the facility will bring $1 billion into Michigan – including hundreds of new jobs and thousands of scientific visitors

"More excitingly, I think it's a center of knowledge," Sherrill says. "This will be a one-of-a-kind facility that won't exist anywhere else in the world."

The primary research at F-RIB will be to understand the basic forces that hold atoms together. But Sherrill says there’s also the potential to find new clean energy practices, safe ways to dispose of existing nuclear waste and to develop new medical diagnostic procedures.

"It does have applications for industry," Sherrill says. "It will bring people to Michigan to do that research, and hopefully some of them will stay, and some of the businesses that will spin off will lead to bigger and better things for the state."

Sherrill says the facility will also be important to national security.

"There are many cases where understanding and developing more sensitive techniques for tracing certain nuclear materials could be done at a facility like this," he says. "That kind of research would help make the nation more secure and allow us to identify where undesirable materials might be."

MSU was expecting $55 million from the federal government for the project, but the Obama administration budgeted only $22 million.

"Countries around the world are making big investments in this kind of research and they're moving forward," Sherrill cautions. "And the U.S. needs to move forward in a timely manner as well."