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Monroe County CC Opens $17M Tech Center, Fermi 1 Exhibit

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Ron May, DTE Energy senior vice president, major enterprise projects, and Dr. Kojo A. Quartey, MCCC president, pose in front of encased models of a Fermi 1 nuclear fuel rod cutaway, radial blanket assembly and a control rod, as well as a model of a nuclear fuel rod grid structure. Monroe County CC photo.

Ron May, DTE Energy senior vice president, major enterprise projects, and Dr. Kojo A. Quartey, MCCC president, pose in front of encased models of a Fermi 1 nuclear fuel rod cutaway, radial blanket assembly and a control rod, as well as a model of a nuclear fuel rod grid structure. Monroe County CC photo.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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MONROE (WWJ) – Monroe County Community College officials formally opened the new Career Technology Center during a ribbon cutting ceremony today in front of the main entrance to the $17 million, 60,000-square foot facility.

Then, a few hours later, the college and DTE Energy dedicated an extensive exhibit built into the student concourse of the new Career Technology Center that details the history and importance of the Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant (Fermi 1).

Students begin taking classes in the Career Technology Center Thursday, the first day of fall semester.

The Career Technology Center provides infrastructure to support state-of-the-art classrooms and lab space required to deliver instruction and skills necessary to secure high-growth, high-demand and high-paying jobs, said MCCC President Dr. Kojo A. Quartey.

It allows for the updating and expansion of existing programs previously housed in the East and West Technology buildings, which had become inadequate to meet modern technology needs.

These include program areas such as nuclear engineering, welding, construction, computer-aided drafting and manufacturing, electronics, mechanical engineering and automation, quality assurance, and automotive engineering and service with an emphasis on hybrid and battery technology.

In addition, the Career Technology Center provides facilities and equipment necessary for the development of programs in the emerging areas of advanced manufacturing; renewable energies such as wind, solar and fuel cell technology; and sustainable and green technologies.

“This is a highly impressive and expansive facility for our applied science and engineering technology programs,” said MCCC board chairman William J. Bacarella Jr. “The opening of the Career Technology Center accomplishes several objectives that are inherent in our mission, such as preparing students for meaningful employment via one- and two-year programs in technical fields, as well as partnering with employers, governmental institutions and other organizations to provide educational programming that meets the needs of an evolving economy.”

Added MCCC president Kojo A. Quartey: “As we look forward to celebrating the 50th year of Monroe County Community College at the end of this academic year, the opening of the Career Technology Center marks another very important milestone in the rich history our college has of enriching lives in this community. This facility is all about preparing our students for tomorrow and being responsive to the needs of Monroe County.”

A combination of sustainable systems has been integrated into the design of the building that will be incorporated into the curriculum. The building will serve as a learning laboratory for students in applied science and engineering technology fields.

The Career Technology Center was built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Standards and features state-of-the-art lab space, a geothermal system, Applied Science and Engineering Technology Division and faculty offices, a computer classroom and labs for all of the following areas: automation, automotive, construction, electronics, manufacturing, materials, mechanical design, metrology, renewable energy, nuclear energy and welding.

The state of Michigan financed half the cost of construction. The college has funded the other half through existing funds and a capital campaign in support of the facility.

In March, the DTE Energy Foundation made a $1 million gift to the Career Technology Center capital campaign. Other major gifts have included $500,000 from the La-Z-Boy Foundation, $75,000 from Michigan Gas Utilities and the Wisconsin Public Service Foundation, and $50,000 from Monroe Bank & Trust.

In addition, more than $200,000 has been raised through an internal fundraising campaign.

The Foundation at MCCC is still accepting donors to support the Career Technology Center.

More information on the Career Technology Center at MCCC, including ways to support the new facility, is available http://www.monroeccc.edu/ctc.

As for the Fermi 1 exhibit, officials say it stems from DTE Energy’s license application for a new unit (Fermi 3) on the current Fermi site. The potential construction of Fermi 3 would impact Fermi 1, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded would qualify for the National Register of Historic Places. As a result, DTE Energy agreed to create a public exhibit on the history of Fermi 1.

At the time it began operation in the mid 1960s, Fermi 1 was the world’s largest liquid-metal cooled, fast breeder reactor.

DTE Energy approached former MCCC President Dr. David Nixon in November 2011 about partnering with the college to develop the exhibit and house it at the college. MCCC officials agreed to do so, and, in turn, formed a steering committee made up of MCCC faculty and administrators, DTE employees and retirees, and other interested parties who participated in comprehensive sessions to provide ideas for the content of the display.

A sub group of that committee was charged with implementing those ideas in just over a year so that the exhibit could be included in the Career Technology Center when it opened.

Included in this exhibit are three wall displays: a discussion of the history and significance of Fermi 1 to Monroe, the nuclear power industry and the world; a timeline of important dates in Fermi 1’s history; and a timeline of the history of nuclear power.

To supplement text and photos, the exhibit also includes historical artifacts and a video entitled “Through Their Eyes: Reflections on Fermi 1.” Some of the artifacts were donated by DTE Energy and others are on loan from The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The artifacts are protected in display cases meeting very precise specifications outlined by The Henry Ford, as well encased within the wall displays.

“The engineers and operators of Fermi 1 were pioneers designing, building and testing new equipment and establishing new protocols and procedures specific to this one-of-a-kind facility,” said Ron May, DTE Energy senior vice president, major enterprise projects.
“Scientists and dignitaries from all over the globe came to Monroe to learn from this cutting-edge nuclear plant and its world-class staff. This part of DTE Energy’s history and its rich contribution to nuclear power development in the world should be a source of great pride for the company and for Southeast Michigan.”

The Fermi 1 historical display project was managed and edited by Randy Westmoreland, technical expert for major enterprise projects at DTE Energy, and Joe Verkennes, director of marketing at MCCC. Jamie Steis, former DTE Energy intern and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and John VanHouten, a DTE Energy intern and a student at Wayne State University, assisted in the coordination of the project.

Edmund LaClair, assistant professor of history at MCCC, wrote the display’s content with the help of Lynne Goodman, DTE Energy licensing manager, major enterprise projects, and Earl Page, a nuclear engineer who worked for the firm that designed Fermi 1 and later retired from Detroit Edison. Dan Shaw, assistant professor of journalism at MCCC, wrote and produced the video portion of the display.

David Smith, a temporary full-time MCCC faculty member in the Applied Science and Engineering Division and a former engineer at Fermi 1, was a key member of the committee who lent additional background and research to the project. He is working with fellow faculty members Tom Harrill (electronics) and Martin Dubois (mechanical engineering technology) on a Fermi 1 control room panel mockup incorporating original instruments, which will be tied to a computer display mimicking control room operations. This mockup will be added to the exhibit at a later date.

The exhibit was designed, constructed and installed by 2020 Exhibits, which is headquartered in Houston but has a regional office in Northwood, Ohio near Toledo, where the display was fabricated.

DTE Energy made donations to MCCC to pay for the entire cost of the display.

In conjunction with the exhibit, a sculpture of a suspended, spinning atom that stood for many years at the Fermi Visitor Center has been relocated to the MCCC campus.

The restored “Atomic Sculpture” now greets visitors to MCCC with the following message in white block letters on a bright red background: “MCCC: Home of the Fermi 1 Historical Exhibit.”

The sculpture was restored and installed at MCCC through donations from DTE Energy and the Michigan Section of the American Nuclear Society.

Below is a summary of the artifacts included in the display:
• Models of a nuclear fuel rod cutaway, radial blanket assembly and a control rod
• Model of a nuclear fuel rod grid structure
• Parts from the reactor and fuel assemblies.
• Portal personnel contamination monitor unit
• Beta-gamma hand and foot monitor, circa 1960
• An early conceptual model of Fermi 1
• A model of the zirconium plate that caused the partial fuel melt incident in 1966
• Plaques
• Original photographs
• Initial Fermi 1 start-up charts
• Original documents, including a request for a court injunction by the UAW to halt the project and the Supreme Court ruling that the permit for construction was legally issued
• Guest registers that contain the signatures of dignitaries from all over the world who visited the plant

“A lot of the credit for this exhibit coming to fruition goes to former MCCC President Dr. David E. Nixon, who, over his 10 years at the college, built a tremendous relationship with DTE Energy,” Quartey said. “Dr. Nixon realized that an exhibit such as this made perfect sense in the new Career Technology Center, which is home to the college’s applied science and engineering programs, including our nuclear engineering technology program that was started in conjunction with DTE Energy — a strong program partnership that continues today. He knew that members of the faculty and staff would work seamlessly with DTE Energy employees, retirees and others to develop a highly impressive exhibit that will preserve the history of Fermi 1 for many generations to come.”

“DTE considered a number of different institutions to partner with to create the exhibit, but none were more enthusiastic or qualified than the staff at MCCC,” May said. “The college proved to be an ideal choice to showcase this highly visible project, considering the following: its prominent role in Monroe County as an institution of higher learning; the other notable partnerships with DTE, such as the 500-kilowatt solar array and the nuclear technology program; and, most of all, the faculty and staff’s passion for the project along with the expertise they have provided in the areas of history, journalism, graphic arts, historical preservation and nuclear power.”

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