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ESS Lund – Vital for Science

European scientists are facing a dramatic reduction in neutrons beams for research within the next 5 to 10 years due to the imminent closure of many of our aging neutron reactors.

Recently, the Neutron Landscape Group (NLG), a panel established to review the neutron beam supply situation in Europe published their findings in a European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures roadmap. They reported that two-thirds of European operating neutron sources were built in the 1960s and 70s, and most of these are due to close in the next decade.

The Institut Laue–Langevin (IIL) is the world’s most intense neutron source on earth but the convention signed by the three countries that operate it, France, Germany and the UK is due to expire in 2023. A closure of this important facility plus of other, less intense European neutron sources would result in a significant reduction of neutrons and be devastating for scientific research. Neutron beams are used to discover and develop new materials with applications in manufacturing, pharmaceutical drugs, aerospace, energy, telecommunications and more. Any reduction in neutron beams will negatively impact these industries research.

However, the world’s largest and most advanced neutron source is currently being built in Lund, Sweden. The European Spallation Source (ESS) will become the world’s most powerful neutron source, enabling scientists to see and understand basic atomic structures and forces at length at time scales unachievable at other spallation sources. It is expected to provide neutron beams up to 30 times brighter than any current neutron source. ESS Lund is due to be switched on by the end of the decade.

Even with the ESS Lund due to open, the panel have advised that our European neutron facilities require significant investment over the next 15 years, in an attempt to keep neutron levels to within 20% of existing levels. This would involve keeping the ILL and the other neutron sources that risk closure operating until at least 2030.

The NLG is currently applying the finishing touches to a longer report that will examine neutron provision beyond 2030.


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