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European Spallation Source (ESS)

The world’s most modern neutron source will start operations in 2019 in Lund, a city in southern Sweden. The European Spallation Source ESS will permit unique research to be performed. Around 5,000 researchers in Europe use neutrons to analyse their samples. Most of the European neutron sources are based on smaller reactors. Their capacity is weak compared to the planned spallation source. In addition, after decades of successful operations, some of them will have to be decommissioned in the coming 10 to 25 years. ESS will help compensate for these closures and will reinforce Europe’s leading position in neutron research.

Research institutions from 11 European countries launched joint planning for a European spallation source as early as 1993; however, initially, no decision was reached with regard to construction. Instead, the USA took over parts of the concept for its Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA, which today is the world’s highest flux spallation source. It took until 28 May 2009 for the European ministers of research to finally decide on Lund as the site for ESS

In the design-update phase (2010 to 2013), the original plans are under revision, in order to take into account insights gained during the construction and operations of SNS and the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) located near Tokyo, which is also extremely powerful. The revisions will benefit all components of the facility, including the accelerator, the target station, and the instrumentation. The period from 2013 to 2018 has been designated for building the facility, while installation and testing of the instruments is planned from 2019 to 2025. ESS is designed to be in regular operation for 40 years. Researchers will then be able to apply for measuring time with their projects. A selection procedure will ensure that only the most promising applications are approved.

ESS is a joint European project involving 17 countries. Decisions are taken by the governments of these countries on a joint basis. For construction, around € 1.5 billion have been estimated, with the equivalent of around five to ten percent of this amount earmarked for annual operations. Approximately 450 employees will be responsible for ongoing operations. In addition to money, the partner countries will also make in-kind contributions, such as instruments. Experience from the USA and Japan will help make ESS better and more affordable.
In so doing, ESS will aim to be both a scientific leader as well as a pioneer with respect to energy consumption. ESS is due to become the first completely CO2-neutral large-scale research acility. Three strategies will make this possible: special construction measures will reduce energy demand by around 20 percent from the very outset. In addition, the electricity used will be obtained only from renewable energy sources such as wind energy, and the waste heat generated will be fed into Lund’s district heating network.

Researchers from Germany are involved at all levels of the project. Prof. Sebastian Schmidt, member of Jülich’s Board of Directors, has coordinated the German contributions for planning work since 2009. The ESS Competence Centre has served as the contact partner in Jülich for the partners since 2011.

Further information:

Neutron Research in Jülich
ESS Competence Centre
How Spallation Works
History of Neutron Research in Jülich
World of Physics: Podcast on ESS and the contributions from Jülich (in German)
ESS Website
Film about ESS on YouTube