The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 16, 2012


By The Building Tradesman

FRIB’s future still unsettled

LANSING – In January, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu raised some red flags by saying for the first time that full funding to construct Michigan State University’s $615 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams  (FRIB) was uncertain. He said with the attitude from Congress about the federal budget deficit, “we can’t starting six things and we can only afford four things.”

On March 6, MSU Vice President for Government Affairs Mark Burnham essentially told delegates to the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council that FRIB funding in Congress was still up in the air. He echoed what Chu said, that the cost-cutting federal government only has so much money to spend on new construction, and other projects are vying for money.

“It’s a winnable fight,” Burnham told delegates, “but we could use your help.” The help is needed in the area of lobbying Congress, especially, at this time, those who sit on the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

Work, much of it utility relocation, has already begun on campus to make way for the FRIB, which will allow scientists to study rare and fleeting atomic nuclei and matter. The complex includes a tunnel 700-feet long and 40 feet deep, to run a nuclear accelerator.

Michigan State won the federal competition to build the FRIB, outclassing competitors from around the country, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, the money from the federal government is only coming in piecemeal. MSU received $22 million in the most recent outlay, and they asked for $55 million.

 Chu, appearing before Congress, was grilled on the subject by Congressman John Dingell, who wondered if the U.S Department of Energy is as committed to the study of nuclear physics in Michigan as it is to a nuclear facility being built in France.

Chu, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, said his department has is "very supportive" of the FRIB and wants it to proceed. "We've asked for continued funding and we hope that Congress allows us to have that funding, that we can keep this project going forward," Chu said.

U.S. economy keeps momentum, add jobs

WASHINGTON (PAI) – Businesses claimed to add 233,000 jobs in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Nevertheless, the jobless rate was unchanged, at 8.3%. The net job gain was 227,000, as the federal government shed 6,400 workers.

The number of unemployed increased by 48,000 in February, to 12.806 million, but the big jump came in the number of employed: 428,000 in one month.

Heidi Shierholz, top jobs analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, welcomed the monthly jobs gain, and noted the economy has added jobs for two straight years now, since the official end of the Great Recession.

“Over the last two years the labor market has gained back 3.5 million jobs, after losing 8.7 million in the downturn,” she said. But the U.S. still has 5.2 million fewer jobs than it did before the recession began, Shierholz noted.