ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) – The University of Michigan plans to spend $11.4 million converting a school building that once housed a nuclear reactor into research labs and testing areas.

The four-story, 17,400-square-foot Ann Arbor building and a planned 5,200-square-foot addition will be used to expand the engineering school’s nuclear engineering and radiological sciences department. The Board of Regents on Thursday approved the project.

The school has been decommissioning the Ford Nuclear Reactor over the past decade. According to an update from university officials, they’re almost done lowering the facility’s radioactivity levels.

The school conducts nuclear energy research through its Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, which was established in 1948. The school, using a donation from Ford Motor Co., built the reactor in 1955 and conducted work there aimed at developing peaceful ways to use nuclear energy.

When it operated, the 28-foot-deep reactor was used by academic researchers for experiments. In 2004, four years after discontinuing its operations, the university decided to close the reactor for good and committed to spending $9.8 million on decommissioning.

The new project includes research labs, testing areas, offices and academic support spaces. The building is to be called Nuclear Engineering Laboratories.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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