ANKARA--A long-planned synchrotron project for the Middle East took a major step forward last month after its Jordanian hosts pledged the money to house the instrument and its German donors agreed to ship it.
SESAME (Synchrotron Radiation for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) was founded in 1999 to implement Germany's donation of BESSY-I, a 0.8-giga electron volt synchrotron that has been mothballed in Berlin. Last month in Cairo, officials from Jordan promised to fund a building for the accelerator and its upgraded beamlines at a site at Al-Balqa' Applied University outside Amman. At the same time, German research officials said they would ship BESSY shortly after groundbreaking this summer. "When this was announced, the whole atmosphere became positive, since SESAME members now think that the project will fly," notes Herwig Schopper, former CERN director-general and head of SESAME's interim governing council.
Schopper says five more countries have expressed interest in the project, making the total 16 and leaving Saudi Arabia and Syria the only major nations in the region that have not yet joined. The members will help pay for the estimated $8 million in upgrades needed. Construction on the new building, to cost $11 million, is expected to begin this fall and be completed by the end of 2002.
The council also approved plans for a biomedical institute alongside SESAME. The new entity, to be called the Middle East Biological Sciences Institute for Research, will make use of the synchrotron's beamlines. "We hope it will foster regional cooperation in the life sciences," says Said Assaf, director-general of the Arafat National Scientific Center for Applied Research in Ramallah and the Palestinian Authority's representative to SESAME. Work on the new institute will wait until after completion of SESAME.