We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The March / April edition of the JRC Newsletter has been published and can be downloaded here. It features an editorial from Cristina Garmendia Mendizábal, Spanish Minister for Science and Innovation, on the EU innovation plan and the related efforts of the Spanish EU presidency.
The European Commission and the EU Presidency organised the first EU-US expert meeting on Critical Infrastructure Protection in Madrid on 4-5 March. The meeting brought together almost 100 experts from the EU Member States, the US and the European Economic Area countries, and constituted the opening event for the future EU – US cooperation process in the field of Critical Infrastructure Protection.
The JRC launched today the Internet version of its Publications Repository. Bibliographic data of almost 10000 articles and papers representing a wealth of knowledge are now available to the public. In addition, more than 1700 technical reports (EUR series) are freely available for download.
The European Commission has today appointed Robert-Jan Smits as Deputy Director General of the JRC. He follows Anneli Pauli, who had left the JRC to become Deputy Director General of the Commission's Research Directorate-General.
Satellite observation is the key instrument that will allow to double in 2010 the number of countries monitored in real time for detecting first indications of adverse agricultural outcomes. The new Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system facilitates and accelerates the reaction time in responding to food security crises by providing a common and internationally recognised classification of their severity.
The JRC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the American Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) are working to innovate and reinforce their food security monitoring systems and to develop more efficient early warning tools. These efforts come as a response to the 2007-2008 global food crises that significantly increased the number of countries under threat of famine.
The JRC will this year extend the real time monitoring system it has developed to forecast food crises. The monitoring will not only cover the Horn of Africa but all of the most food insecure countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the Earth observation and agroclimatic data regularly received by the JRC is global, other countries outside Africa can also be monitored in case of food security crises.
These efforts have been made possible by the new IPC system that is built on a large consensus and accepted internationally. At the same time, it avoids contradictory results deriving from the use of different scales and therefore facilitates the donors' response.
In December 2009, the European Commission decided to allocate € 1 276 269 (more than 1.7 million US dollars) over a period of 14 months to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).Together with the JRC, FEWS NET and the other organisations involved in the development of the classification, the FAO will implement the second phase of the IPC initiative in at least 8 focus countries (6 of which located in Sub Saharan Africa) through improved technical development, field support and institutionalisation.
While in the US the Obama administration has said it will abandon the nuclear waste disposal project at Yucca Mountain and has set up a "blue-ribbon" commission on America's future management of nuclear waste, in Europe, two countries (Sweden and Finland) have already selected a disposal site for nuclear waste and France will specify a location by 2013. In a number of other European countries (e.g. Switzerland and UK), geological disposal is the reference management option and things are moving forward to the site selection stage.
A recent report by the JRC on transmission network planning and grid controlling underlines that a radical change, in coordinated network planning and operation, is needed to accommodate market liberalisation and the increasing integration of renewable power sources. Smarter power grids have a central role in moving Europe towards a low carbon energy economy, as underlined by the European Union's Strategic Energy Technology Plan Information System (SETIS) , led by the JRC.
The recent JRC review of existing methods for transmission planning and for grid connection of wind power plants is state of the art in this field and leads the way for future developments. The report’s findings and recommendations include:
To further strengthen its activities in the detection of single uranium particles, the JRC and Euratom Safeguards have decided to jointly establish a high-sensitivity particle analysis laboratory. The new laboratory's core facility will be a large geometry secondary ion mass spectrometer (LG-SIMS) for trace analysis of aerosol particles. It will allow the detection speed and sensitivity of nuclear material to be increased by at least a factor of ten. The minor isotopes of uranium will become accessible, which is important for identifying the source of the material.
The European Commission's JRC is among the few laboratories in the world that can provide the highly specialised analytical methods and techniques needed for nuclear safeguards and forensics purposes. In Karlsruhe, Germany, the JRC's Institute for Transuranium Elements (JRC-ITU) supports Euratom Safeguards. Its mission is to ensure that within the EU, nuclear material is not diverted from its intended use and that safeguarding obligations agreed with third parties are complied with.
Nuclear safeguards also include environmental sampling to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities. The JRC provides the safeguards authorities with experimental evidence by analysing micron-sized particles in dust material, thus enabling the detection of a single uranium particle among millions of ordinary dust particles.
Preventing the spread of nuclear weapon technology and illicit trafficking of nuclear materials that can be used for the production of nuclear weapons, or so-called dirty bombs, is a key issue today. Illicit trafficking of nuclear material demands a qualified and comprehensive response. The JRC has been playing an active role in enhancing the European Union (EU) member states' capabilities to combat illicit trafficking for many years. An extensive training programme was developed covering all aspects of the entire response process, from the development of a national response plan to nuclear forensic analysis with advanced analytical techniques.
The JRC's capabilities in this field were the basis for the recent agreement concluded with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to work together on science and technology for safety, security and sustainability. In particular, nuclear forensics and safeguards technology for combating illicit trafficking of nuclear material is a primary area of common interest.
In support of the EU enlargement and integration, the JRC promotes the integration of organisations and experts from the two new Member States Bulgaria and Romania as well as candidate countries, potential candidate countries and non EU countries associated to FP7 within its research and technical activities. To some extent, partner countries under the European Neighbourhood Policy can participate as well.