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Opening New Doors to Science in Middle East

IAEA Holds Session on "Unique" Regional Science Cooperation

Khaled Toukan

SESAME Director Professor Khaled Toukan gives a presentation on the status of the SESAME project to IAEA Member State representatives during a special information session held at the Agency headquarters in Vienna. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)


"Open Sesame."

To readers of the One Thousand and One Nights, these ancient, magical words opened the door to a cave filled with untold wealth and wonders. Today, in the 21st century, the word "SESAME" is poised to open doors to opportunities in world-class, scientific research for thousands of scientists in the Middle East Region.

SESAME stands for Synchroton-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East. It is also the acronym for an intergovernmental science centre being constructed in Allan, Jordan, that will house a third generation synchrotron light source. The facility is modeled after the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. It is being set up under the auspices of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to foster scientific and technological development in the Middle Eastern region. IAEA supports SESAME through technical cooperation and coordinated research projects.

A special information session was held at IAEA headquarters on 29 May 2013 to brief IAEA officials and Member States representatives on the purpose of SESAME, its current status and the cooperation between the Agency and SESAME Member Countries. The information session was held in connection with the 22nd Meeting of the SESAME Council, which is being hosted this year by the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation.

"Our work with SESAME is an important part of our efforts to promote international and regional cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear science throughout the world," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in his remarks to the opening of the 22nd Meeting of the SESAME Council earlier.

"Technological innovation is vital for the future of both developed and developing countries. Nuclear science and technology, in particular, make a major contribution in many areas, from power generation to human and animal health, industry and agriculture," Mr. Amano also said.

SESAME will be the Middle East's first major international research centre. Scientists, including graduate students from universities and research institutes, will visit the Centre to carry out experiments in collaboration with peers from other centres/countries, and then return home to analyze the data they have obtained. They are expected to bring back scientific expertise and knowledge to their respective countries and, in the process, create a scientific environment that will encourage the region's scientists and technologists to stay in the region or to return if they have moved elsewhere.

"With growing financial and technical support from members and international organizations, the SESAME project is on track to allow for commissioning of four 'day-one' beamlines by 2015," according to Professor Khaled Toukan, Director of SESAME.

"The extensive training programme is already contributing to building scientific and technical capacity in SESAME Members," Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, SESAME Council President pointed out in his presentation.

Professor Llewellyn Smith and Professor Toukan, were both presenting at the special information session on SESAME for IAEA Member States. Jane Gerardo Abaya, Section Head of the Division for Asia and the Pacific of the Department of Technical Cooperation, and Ralf Bernd Kaiser, Section Head of the Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences of the Department of Nuclear Applications and Sciences, also addressed the session on the topic of IAEA cooperation with SESAME members.

"SESAME really brings cutting-edge science to the Middle East region and supports technological and economic development", said Ralf Bernd Kaiser. "It is important that the Agency continues to support this project well into the future."

SESAME's Members are currently Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. Observer countries are China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

The SESAME facility is expected to come into full operation in late 2015 provided the required capital funding for completion of construction of the machine is available on schedule.


-- By Rodolfo Quevenco, IAEA Division of Public Information


(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)