2005-12-12 09:26:00
Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

SESAME Synchrotron: Middle East Sees the Light

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120926Z Dec 05



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SESAME Synchrotron: Middle East Sees the Light




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SESAME Synchrotron: Middle East Sees the Light

1. Summary: SESAME (Synchrotron Light for Experimental
Science and Applications in the Middle East),an
international project to operate the first synchrotron in
the Arab world, met in Amman on December 5-7 to assess
progress, plan a strategy, and attract potential users.
SESAME will upgrade a retired German synchrotron and install
it in Jordan. (The synchrotron is a "light source," a next-
generation x-ray machine that can peer down to the molecular
level.) The synchrotron's wide range of applications makes
it a valuable tool for practical industrial and scientific
research. Many countries participate in SESAME, which needs
to raise $20-25 million to become operational. End summary.

Background: Genesis in 1997 - UNESCO Support - Jordan Base
-------------- --------------

2. SESAME is the brainchild of Stanford University
physicist Herman Winick, German physicist Herwig Schopper,
and Gustaf-Adolf Voss. In 1997, Winick, Schopper, and Voss
had the idea of donating Germany's retired BESSY I
synchrotron to an Arab country. Jordan's King Abdullah II
was an early and enthusiastic supporter, so SESAME found a
home in Jordan at Al-Balqa Applied University in Salt.
SESAME was originally formed on an interim basis in 1999,
and was formally reconstituted in 2003 as an independent
international organization under the auspices of UNESCO.

"Wheels of SESAME Are Turning Faster Every Day"
-------------- --

3. Beyond the German donation of the retired machine core
and Jordan's contributions for the building, SESAME has
gathered $4 million to date, but still needs about $20-25
million for the project be become fully operational. While
the heart of the machine was donated by Germany, the
stations along the "ring" of the synchrotron remain to be
purchased at $2.5 - $3 million apiece. SESAME's Scientific
Committee plans to have six stations or "beamlines" ready at
start-up in 2009. Other equipment needed to upgrade the
machine to current standards also remains to be funded, but
the result will be a world class machine according to
Stanford professor Winick.

4. 2006 will be a critical year, according to SESAME Center
President and Jordanian Minister of Education and Higher
Education Khaled Toukan. At the December 5-7 conclave,
Toukan noted that "the wheels of SESAME are turning faster
every day," and that optimism about, and interest in SESAME
are growing as the project approaches reality. Toukan, with
a PhD in physics from MIT, is a key player in SESAME; in his
former role as President of Al-Balqa University, he arranged
for the SESAME site and lobbied for Jordanian funding.

USG Supports; Jordan Chipping inSerious Funds

5. Through the Department of Energy (DOE) and State, the
USG has been a consistent supporter of SESAME, including
paying for several Iraqi students to attend the SESAME users
meeting on December 6-7 in Amman. Jordan has been the
biggest supporter by far, though. The GoJ has poured
several million dollars into SESAME's building, which is
being custom-built to world-class standards, including a
single-slab, 9-foot thick foundation. For its part, the EU
has been slowly moving towards a 12 million Euro
contribution. SESAME President Schopper has obtained the
signatures of 28 Nobel Prize winners on a letter supporting
SESAME, and intends to use it as a marketing tool to solicit
further funding. Much support is in-kind; IAEA announced in
Amman that it is prepared to provide 40 man-months of
training annually for the next three years.

Building Ready in 2006

6. SESAME's building will be completed in summer 2006, and
the machine itself is scheduled to start operating in 2009,
but definitive timing depends on availability of funding.
SESAME already has hired some staff, and will hire
additional personnel in 2006, although much of the heavy
scientific lifting is still done on a volunteer basis. The
machine itself is sitting disassembled in a warehouse in
Amman until the building is ready.

Strong Member Support, Large User Base

7. SESAME is "past the point of no return," said SESAME
President Schopper, who said that SESAME enjoys both strong
member support and a broad user base, both key to
sustainable operations, which are likely to cost $3-4
million per year. SESAME will be run by a council of
representatives whose governments have officially joined
SESAME: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the
Palestinian Authority, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates
(UAE). Observer countries include Germany, Greece, Italy,
Kuwait, Russia, Sweden, the UK, and the United States.
Cyprus will join soon, and Morocco is likely to join, said
SESAME President Schopper.

8. Comment: The SESAME synchrotron appears to be on its way
to gaining the support it needs to become operational, and
to serving as a unique pillar of science and industrial
research in a region where those fields are lagging.