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Mar. 10, 2014

$11.4 Million Renovation Plan Promises New Life to U-M’s Former Nuclear Building

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Ten years after beginning to decommission the Ford Nuclear Reactor, the University of Michigan (U-M) is preparing for a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion of the four-story building that is now entirely free of radiation.

The decommissioned building, which is located on U-M’s North Campus in Ann Arbor, was built in 1957 with a $1 million donation from Ford Motor Company. For more than 46 years the 28-foot-deep reactor was used by U-M’s academic researchers strictly for experiments and investigation of the peaceful uses of nuclear power in medicine, chemistry, physics, cellular biology, mineralogy, archeology, anthropology and nuclear science.

The 17,400-square-foot facility was officially shut down in July 2003 because of its extremely high maintenance costs. Ten years later U-M’s Board of Regents renamed the building the Nuclear Engineering Laboratories as the first step of the long-anticipated redevelopment. According to the Detroit Free Press, nuclear research will still be conducted inside the building using a miniaturized particle accelerator instead of the old reactor fueled by uranium-235.

Slated for completion in fall 2015, the $11.4 million redevelopment project will accommodate the expansion needs of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences in the College of Engineering. As detailed in U-M’s plans, the fourth floor of the former nuclear building will be reconverted into 5,200 square feet of office, research and conference space, while the building itself will be fully renovated to house research labs, testing areas and academic support spaces. The architectural firm SmithGroupJJR was selected by the U-M Board of Regents to create the design of the project.

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