SWEDEN: European neutron facility secured

Sweden has beaten Hungary and Spain with a bid to host a EUR1.4 billion neutron research facility, the European Spallation Source or ESS. The Swedish Ministry of Education recently announced the ESS would be built in Lund, with the Swedish government covering 30% of the installation costs.

ESS is billed as the world's most advanced centre for research on neutrons - spallation means splitting an atom into three or more parts. It will be relevant for research fields within material sciences and biosciences and will be located with Lund's MAX IV syncroton installation, an updated version of the present installations.

The major competitor for the installation was Spain and it has been agreed that Spain would participate in the project by building components and constructing a testing site. The Swedes may be looking for a similar arrangement with Hungary.

Swedish politicians and diplomats have worked intensely over several years on the project, signing collaboration agreements with Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and probably Norway. Thee agreements could mean that 50% of the installation costs will come from the Nordic and Baltic countries, while EU sources and long standing Swedish governmental bridging loans would have to cover the remaining 15%.

Sweden's case for hosting ESS included its existing technological and scientific expertise for the project, and that the old university town of Lund, near the southernmost Swedish city of Malmoe, is one of the largest universities in Northern Europe.

More than 5,000 scientists are expected to use ESS and a major objective is that it will be CO2 neutral. Construction is expected to start in 2012 and take six years to build with two more years for installing instruments and computers.

* Jan Petter Myklebust is deputy director at the department of research management, University of Bergen.