Marek Lewitowicz – Chairman of the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC)

Prof. Dr Marek Lewitowicz is the Chairman of the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC), one of the Expert Committees of European Science Foundation. He is currently Research Director of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique at GANIL laboratory in Caen (France). He holds a PhD in nuclear physics of the Institute of Nuclear Studies at Swierk near Warsaw and he was appointed as professor of physics by the President of Poland. Previously, he occupied research fellow positions at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and at the Institut de Physique Nucléaire at Orsay, France.

He was and is strongly involved in several European research projects related to FP6, FP7 and H2020 integrating activities of the European infrastructures like ENSAR & ENSAR2 as deputy coordinator, SPIRAL2 and IDEAAL as coordinator and in the development of the ESFRI landmark facility SPIRAL2 at GANIL.

-What is NuPECC and how is it related to the IFMIF-DONES project?

-The Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee is an Expert Committee of the European Science Foundation.

The objective of NuPECC is to develop the strategy for European Collaboration in nuclear science by supporting collaborative ventures between research groups within Europe, and promote nuclear physics and its trans-disciplinary use in applications for societal benefit.

In pursuing this objective, the Committee provide advice and make strategic recommendations to funding agencies and decision-making bodies, define a network of complementary facilities within Europe and encourage optimisation of their usage, provide a forum for the discussion of the provision of future facilities and instrumentation and contribute to public education and awareness.

Today the Committee is composed of 37 highly qualified experts representing 21 European member countries, 4 large scale nuclear physics infrastructures and 3 associated members.

The Committee was established in 1988 and is operating through 3 plenary meeting, ad-hock task forces and working groups.

Every 6-7 years The Committee is in charge of organization and publication of Long Range Plan (LRP) for nuclear physics in Europe. The LRP is a comprehensive view of the situation in the field and contains the major recommendations for its further development.

-The aim of NuPECC is to develop a European cooperation strategy in science and nuclear physics. How are the research goals, resources, and innovation policies of 27 countries aligned to achieve a common objective?

-NuPECC has established in 2018 a Task Force which visits different European Countries with an objective to meet with representatives of international/national/local Funding Agencies in order to discuss and promote the implementation of the recommendations in the NuPECC 2017Long Range Plan.

During these meetings the Committee has an opportunity to compare the NuPECC recommendations with national roadmaps in nuclear physics and their implementation. So far, the Task Force meetings held in Norway, UK, Romania, IAEA, Poland, JINR Dubna and more recently, in March 2020 in Spain, has demonstrated that the big majority of countries/organizations closely follows the NuPECC 2017 LRP. At the same time there is a clear lack of centralized funding scheme for nuclear physics in Europe and every country has developed different mechanisms for its evaluation and funding.

In general, the ESFRI roadmap is recognized as the main guideline for the development of new research infrastructures in Europe. Thus, the ESFRI-roadmap nuclear physics (or nuclear physics related) facilities namely FAIR, SPIRAL2, MYRRHA, NICA and IFMIF-DONES are supported by national funding agencies and find naturally their place also on national roadmaps of research infrastructures.

-In addition to its interest in fusion development as a source of energy, IFMIF-DONES will be of relevance for other scientific and technological fields. What applications will the advances achieved in IFMIF-DONES have? What other sectors will benefit from this kind of facility besides the energy sector? How will the population benefit from the particle accelerator?

-NuPECC and me personally follow very closely development of the multi-disciplinary aspects of research at the future IFMIF-DONES facility. The DONES-PreP H2020 project has among its main goals also a clear definition of the most promising domains which will be important in this respect. Without anticipating the results of this work, I clearly see opportunities for contributions to the fundamental research in nuclear physics and astrophysics as well as to production of radio-isotopes used in the cancer treatment and diagnosis.

The facility with relatively modest modifications of the baseline design can be used for experiments and long irradiations with deuteron beam and high flux of fast neutrons. Its of course very important to find adequate technical solutions which will allow at the same time keeping all necessary characteristics of the facility like the primary beam intensity and long irradiation periods for fusion related research.

I think that the multi-disciplinary research if implemented at IFMIF-DONES will have a very beneficial consequences for the project as being attractive for larger research community in Europe and in Spain. The possible medical applications might also increase public acceptance and recognition of the project in society.

-Which are the main organisation and financial difficulties when planning the construction of a scientific infrastructure such as IFMIF-DONES? Is the previous experience of the EU in the construction of this type of infrastructure an advantage for IFMIF-DONES?

-The main difficulties in this ambitious endeavor are related to necessary resources and to the large international involvement necessary during its construction phase. In the current crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic it might be difficult to get firm commitments of many countries for the investment in this costly although absolutely necessary infrastructure. Here, a strong support of EU and of the local authorities in Spain seems to be crucial.

IFMIF-DONES being a new, large and international project should fully benefit from the experience gained by other recent major European accelerator projects as ESS, FAIR, SPIRAL2 and XFEL. The IFMIF-DONES management considers very carefully all aspects of those projects trying to adapt their best practices to specific financial and governance scheme related to the particular context of nuclear fusion projects.

-What role will IFMIF-DONES have in the European network of infrastructures related to nuclear fusion?

-The successful operation and research to be conducted at ITER and IFMIF-DONES will pave the way for the first nuclear fusion reactor producing energy – DEMO. These are not facilities among others they are THE facilities absolutely necessary in order to benefit from this incredibly rich source of energy. Of course, a whole international network of research laboratories is required to construct them and then fully analyze results of performed experiments.

-In your experience, how important are the in-kind contributions for scientific projects as ambitious as the particle accelerator?

-This question is on its own a topic for several international conferences and high-level political meetings. Every project of a new research infrastructure has different approach to the in-kind contributions: from projects constructed almost entirely from in-kind contributions (eg. ITER) to those with minor contributions of these type (eg. SPIRAL2 or US accelerator projects).

Different approaches are results of heterogenous funding schemes and diverse political strategies in the international environment of the projects.

In the case of IFMIF-DONES in-kind contributions of different countries will for sure play essential role. This funding scheme is attractive for international partners but may cause complications and delays during the implementation phase. It will for sure put additional pressure on the project team.

-NuPECC is one of the observers in the DONES-PreP project, which will end next December. What is the strategic importance of DONES-PreP for the commissioning of IFMIF-DONES in Granada?

-The DONES-PreP EU funded project is, in my opinion, a necessary step in the preparation for the construction of the facility in Grenada. Thanks to it, IFMIF-DONES will define a clear project organization, a viable cost estimate and its funding scheme. Indeed, the time left up to the end of the DONES-PreP phase is probably not sufficient to get a firm decision on the construction of IFMIF-DONES in Grenada but I believe that all ingredients necessary to prepare this decision will be achieved.