17.06.2013 - Natural Sciences Sector

European Commission contributes 5 million euros to the SESAME synchrotron light source in the Middle East

© SESAMEView of the SESAME building

The European Commission and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they have agreed to help in the construction of the SESAME synchrotron light source, one of the most ambitious research facilities in the Middle East, in a joint press conference in Brussels on 28 May 2013.

The EC has agreed to provide €5 million to fund construction of the magnets for the new storage ring of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East), which will be led by CERN with support from SESAME’s engineers.

A storage ring is the heart of any synchrotron facility. It is a circular tube, surrounded by magnets, in which electrons are accelerated to close to the speed of light and then stored for hours. As the electrons are steered round the ring by the magnets, they emit extremely bright light (synchrotron light) with wavelengths ranging from infrared to X-rays. These X-rays can be used to investigate subjects ranging from biology and medical sciences through materials science, physics and chemistry to archaeology. In the case of SESAME these subjects will be much focussed on issues of regional importance, e.g. related to the environment, health, and agriculture.

Alongside its scientific aims, the SESAME project, established under the auspices of UNESCO, aims to promote solidarity and peace in the region through scientific cooperation.

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said ‘We are very happy to join forces with CERN to support one of the most exciting scientific projects in the Middle East. The SESAME facility will not only offer researchers from the region state-of-the-art facilities, it will draw attention to the big advances that can be achieved in the region through peaceful cooperation.’

CERN Director General, Rolf Heuer, added that ‘SESAME is one of the most important projects in the world right now. With its close parallels to the origins of CERN, I am very happy that we are able to make this important contribution to the young laboratory’s success.’ Prof. Heuer was referring to the fact that UNESCO has not only played an important role in the establishment of SESAME but also of CERN in the 1950s.

This generous contribution, which brings the total provided to SESAME by the European Commission to over US$10 million, was warmly welcomed by the SESAME Council, which was convening on the same day in Vienna (Austria).

SESAME Director, Prof. Khaled Toukan, said ‘Construction of SESAME is progressing well and we now want the scientific programme to begin as soon as possible. The very welcome help of CERN, with the generous support of the European Union, will enable this.’ Once the facility is operational in late 2015, research will begin in earnest.

During the Council meeting, Dr Fernando Ferroni, President of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, announced that the Italian budget for 2013, contained a €1 million contribution to SESAME. The budget is currently awaiting final approval by the Parliamentary Commission.

The SESAME Council meeting was hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has also provided the SESAME training programme with more than US$1 million since 2006.

The members of SESAME are Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. SESAME also counts 13 observer countries: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuweit, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA and, since April this year, China. Collaborative actions involving all these countries could, of course, be conducive to improved mutual understanding between countries of the region and beyond.

Jordan, Iran, Israel and Turkey are each investing capital of US$5 million in the construction of SESAME between 2012 and 2015.

SESAME was established under the auspices of UNESCO, and the Organization is the depository of the Statutes of SESAME. Through its International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP), UNESCO is fostering partnerships between Member States and their scientific institutions with SESAME.

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