The world's most powerful neutron source should be built in Lund, Sweden, it has been announced by EU Research Ministers.
At a meeting in Brussels last night (28 May), seven countries voted in support of Lund's bid to host the European Spallation Source (ESS), with a further two voting with the majority.
The European Spallation Source (ESS) will be the world's most advanced centre for materials research, enabling scientists to study the atomic and molecular arrangement of a huge range of materials at a level of detail never before achieved.
Costing in the region of 1.3bn, the ESS will surpass facilities currently in operation in Japan and the US, and will allow Europe to reclaim its status as world leader in neutron science.
The chosen site, in Lund, will form part of a vast science network, close to Scandinavia's largest university and near to the proposed MAX IV laboratory, a state-of-the-art synchrotron light research facility. It will also be close to the Ideon Science Park, which hosts more than 250 innovation-based start-up companies.
Lund's bid for the site was one of three discussed by research ministers. The other bids were submitted by Debrecen, in Hungary, and Bilbao, in Spain.
Neutron imaging is a crucial tool for looking at how the atoms within materials are arranged and how they interact with each other. This information can help scientists modify and tailor materials to specific needs. The uses for this technology range from producing new drug compounds to target disease to improving metal alloys used in engineering components.
Professor Bob Cywinski, of Huddersfield University in the UK, is spokesman for the EU FP7-funded ESS Preparatory Phase Project, set up to move the ESS project towards construction. He says: "This announcement is fantastic news. The endorsement of Lund's bid by the EU's research ministers means this project now has a mandate to move forward to the final planning stages.
"This project has a long history and all three sites which competed to host the ESS put forward very credible bids. On balance, the Lund site has been chosen because it is best suited to deliver the ESS that Europe wants."
Peter Allenspach, Chairman of the European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA), which represents Europe's neutron scattering societies, said "The European neutron scattering community has been patiently waiting for many years for an indication of some political progress towards the construction of what will be Europe's, and the world's, premier neutron facility. This site decision is welcomed as the first major step on the road to securing ESS for the benefit of all of European science and technology. ENSA congratulates the Lund team on their success."
Peter Tindemans, Chairman of the Board of the ESS Preparatory Phase Project, commented: "Thanks to the dedication of hundreds of scientists and engineers from across the whole of Europe, ESS is now fully developed as a viable and mature project that could and should move rapidly to the construction phase."
He added: "Although final agreements on the funding of ESS have still to be negotiated, the decision on the siting of ESS will certainly smooth the way for those negotiations. European science is now much closer to having the world leading neutron source it deserves"
Although the recommendation from the Council of Ministers is a big step forwards for the ESS project, there are still many milestones to be reached before the facility is operational.
There is no predetermined process as to how Europe should make decisions about large-scale research facilities. A core group of European countries interested in owning and operating the facility must now establish a formal agreement with the host country and commit the funds and resources necessary to make the ESS a reality.
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