EAST LANSING (AP) – Michigan State University decided Friday to proceed with preparations for a nuclear research facility despite questions about how the federal budget squeeze might affect the project’s future.

The university’s governing board approved the administration’s request to take the next step for the project, establishing a $20 million budget for site preparation and excavation. The move is designed to make sure Michigan State is on track for the project if federal budget support comes through as the university expects.

Michigan State won a national competition to land the project in December 2008, and work is under way to design the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. But U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said earlier this month that federal funding for the $600 million nuclear research facility could be in doubt because of federal budget pressures and the economy.

The funding situation could become clearer when the Obama administration makes a new federal budget proposal in February.

“While the Department continues to believe this is an important project, our nation faces tough economic times and difficult budget choices have to be made,” Department of Energy spokesman Damien LaVera said in an email to The Associated Press. “At this point, we have not made a decision on the level of support for this project in FY2013.”

Michigan State is proceeding as if the project will continue.

“MSU continues to move forward with FRIB, ensuring that we are prepared when federal and state officials make appropriate decisions to allocate resources to this project, which is important to MSU, Michigan and U.S. research capabilities,” Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon said in a statement.

Michigan State expects construction to begin later this year.

The facility is designed to accelerate atomic nuclei to high speeds, then shatter them to create rare isotopes.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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