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Fact Sheet: Facility For Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) Applicant Selection

December 11, 2008 - 8:51am

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  • Based on the analyses and recommendations over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science determined that the establishment of a Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) is a high priority for the future of U.S. nuclear science research. This determination and supporting rationale are reflected in the DOE/ National Science Foundation Nuclear Science Advisory Committee's 2007 Long Range Plan and the 2003 DOE report, "Facilities for the Future of Science: A Twenty-Year Outlook."
  • A Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) was used to solicit applications for the conceptual design and establishment of FRIB in order to enable a fair and open competition between universities and national laboratories.
  • A draft FOA was released on February 15, 2008, with comments due April 15, 2008.
  • The Office of Nuclear Physics in the Office of Science issued the final FOA on May 20, 2008, with applications due on July 21, 2008.
  • Shortly after the release of the FOA, two applicants-Michigan State University and the University of Chicago/Argonne National Laboratory LLC-made public announcements regarding their intent to submit applications in response to the FOA.
  • As described in the FOA, DOE used the Merit Review process to select the most meritorious application for the award for the conceptual design and establishment of FRIB. An international Merit Review Panel (MRP), including expert peers from universities, laboratories, and federal agencies, independently evaluated each application against the criteria in the FOA. The Merit Review process incorporated an electronic review, oral presentations, and site visits for the MRP members to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the applications. A Federal Team, comprised of scientific, technical, procurement, and legal specialists, analyzed the MRP members' evaluations to arrive at a recommendation to the Selection Official, who made the final choice of the successful application.
  • Michigan State University (MSU) was selected to design and establish FRIB based on the evaluation against the Merit Review criteria of the application submitted and information obtained from the applicant's response to questions of the Merit Review Panel, oral presentations and site visits. Both applicants fully addressed all aspects of the rated criteria, and demonstrated a very good understanding of the major issues. However, MSU's application provided the strongest proposed budget that was reasonable and realistic.
  • The FOA included a program policy factor regarding the magnitude, robustness, and impact of cost sharing, which was a consideration in the selection decision inasmuch as MSU offered a direct cost share to the project, potentially reducing the overall cost of FRIB to the Federal Government.
  • The Merit Review criteria described in the FOA included: 1) scientific and technical merit of the project, and consideration of the user community; 2) appropriateness of the proposed method or approach; 3) competency of the applicant personnel; and 4) proposed resources, and reasonableness, realism, and appropriateness of the proposed budget. These are the criteria specified in federal regulations for merit evaluation of such proposals.
  • Projected funding for FRIB is estimated to be up to $550 million over the approximately 10-year period needed to design and construct the facility. Funding is subject to appropriations from Congress. This funding does not include funding for the scientific research or experimental support base that will be needed to conduct scientific research at the facility once it is operational.
  • FRIB will be a DOE National User Facility and is expected to provide research opportunities for an international community of approximately 1000 university and laboratory scientists, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students. As is the normal practice for DOE National User facilities, MSU will establish a FRIB program advisory committee--composed of experts from universities and national laboratories--to provide recommendations to the facility scientific and operations directors on the highest priority research projects proposed by Principal Investigators.
  • There are about 3000 known isotopes and as one approaches the limits of stability (unstable nuclei having extreme proton-to-neutron ratios), isotopes become rarer and harder to produce. The main focus of FRIB is to produce such rare isotopes, study their properties, and use them in applications to address national needs.
  • FRIB will provide researchers with the technical capabilities to study the properties of rare isotopes, and to put this knowledge to use in various applications, including in materials science, nuclear medicine, and the fundamental understanding of nuclear material important to nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship.
  • Examples of possible research areas include:
    • o Nuclear Structure - What is the nature of the nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons into stable nuclei and rare isotopes?
    • Nuclear Astrophysics - What is the nature of neutron stars and dense nuclear matter? What is the origin of elements heavier than iron in the cosmos? What are the nuclear reactions that drive stars and stellar explosions?
    • Tests of Fundamental Symmetries - Why is there now more matter than antimatter in the universe?
  • The mission of the Office of Nuclear Physics (NP) in DOE's Office of Science is to discover, explore, and understand all possible forms of nuclear matter. NP supports experimental and theoretical research, builds and operates world-leading scientific user facilities such as particle accelerators, and develops advanced technologies to create, detect, and describe the different forms and complexities of nuclear matter that can exist in the universe, from its infancy to the present.

Media contact(s):

Bethany Shively, (202) 586-4940

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