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The large European Spallation Source (ESS) research infrastructure (RI) will be a world first in the field of neutron production for analytical purposes. Rated at 5 MW, it will be the world's most powerful long-pulse source of low-energy neutrons, which are particularly useful in the analysis and understanding of condensed matter (soft and hard), magnetism, biology and nuclear physics. ESS's intense neutron beams will allow for unprecedented research on real time, real size, in situ, in vivo measurements on organic and inorganic materials, including movies of nano-scale events.
ESS will be located in Lund (Sweden), with a data management centre in Copenhagen (Denmark) and a laboratory test facility and components factory site in Bilbao (Spain). The pre-construction phase will end in 2012, whereas the first production of neutrons will take place in 2019. ESS is expected to be a top tier neutron source for the next 40 years.
The requirements for new instruments to realise ESS and maintaining it at its top-level in the future years was out of the reach of individual Member States and only possible via pooling national resources. An inter-governmental decision to realise ESS and site it in Lund (Sweden) was taken at the end of May 2009. 17 European countries (not all of which are Member States) are now engaged in the ESS project. The international agreement, via the signature of a memorandum of understanding, took place in early February 2011. Easy access for university and research lab users to the facility and to the data produced all over Europe will be a high priority, just as maximising industrial access will be. The cutting-edge technology offered by the ESS RI will undoubtedly contribute to achieving European-led scientific breakthroughs in several fields of science, with high-profile publications and patents, as well as many applications in several industries.
ESS is one of the RIs on the ESFRI roadmap, identified as one of the priority large-scale and single-sited RI to be realised in Europe in the field of analytical facilities. Since 2004, the European Commission has been able to catalyse the efforts and steer the decision process according to the site selection. This milestone in ESS's story came after many years of difficult work by the ESS promoters in getting the necessary political support and consensus for action. The European Commission also funded the Preparatory Phase (PP) of ESS, called "Neutron Source ESS PP", which started on 1 April 2008 and ended on 31 March 2010. The PP supported the promoters in many ways: in the identification of the most suitable governance structure of the RI, in the accurate assessment of all aspects of its costs using costing models, in the review of some critical scientific/technical design issues, and in the assessment of the potential regional socio-economic impact of the ESS construction. Thanks to the PP, an independent evaluation group of experts was put in place to provide an objective assessment of the ESS siting bids from the three competing Member States (Sweden, Spain and Hungary). The PP was also instrumental in the process of preparing the necessary high-level legal documents to gain MS commitment and reach inter-governmental agreements.
The Member States involved via the beneficiaries of the Preparatory Phase project were: France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The EU funding to the Preparatory Phase of ESS was €5 million.
Contact person: Prof. Colin Carlile, ESS Chief Executive & Director-General.
Page added: 29 August 2011