Visit to VIRGO Facility in Pisa
EGO - the European Gravitational Observatory - is located in the countryside near Pisa in the Commune of Cascina. In order to ensure the long term scientific exploitation of the VIRGO interferometric antenna for gravitational waves detection as well as to foster European collaboration in this upcoming field, the VIRGO funding institutions (CNRS for France and INFN for Italy) have created a consortium called EGO (European Gravitational Observatory). VIRGO is a 3 kilometers interferometer built through a French-Italian collaboration. This collaboration involves 11 laboratories in France and Italy and more than 150 scientists. EGO is established under the Italian law. Its governing body is the Council composed of six members nominated by the funding institutions. The Council appoints a Director who is the legal representative and chief executive of EGO. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), advises the Council on scientific and technical activities carried out by the Consortium. The STAC is composed of up to ten scientific personalities. The Virgo detector for gravitational waves consists mainly in a Michelson laser interferometer made of two orthogonal arms being each 3 kilometers long. Multiple reflections between mirrors located at the extremities of each arm extend the effective optical length of each arm up to 120 kilometers. Virgo is located within the site of EGO, European Gravitational Observatory. The frequency range of Virgo extends from 10 to 6,000 Hz. This range as well as the very high sensitivity should allow detection of gravitational radiation produced by supernovae and coalescence of binary systems in the milky way and in outer galaxies, for instance from the Virgo cluster. In order to reach the extreme sensitivity required, the whole interferometer attains optical perfection and is extremely well isolated from the rest of the world in order to be only sensitive to the gravitational waves. To achieve it, Italian and French scientists involved in the project, have developed most advanced techniques in the field of high power ultrastable lasers, high reflectivity mirrors, seismic isolation and position and alignment control. In the field of optics, Virgo uses a new generation of ultrastable lasers, and the most stable oscillator ever built. A specific optical coating facility has been built to produce extremely high quality mirrors combining the highest reflectivity (over 99,999 %), with nanometer surface control. To avoid spurious motions of the optical components due to seismic noise; each one of them is isolated by a 10m high, very elaborate system of compound pendulums. Because the presence of a residual gas would slightly perturb the measurements the light beam must propagate under ultra high vacuum. The two tubes, 3km long and 1.2m diameter each are actually the largest ultra high vacuum vessels in Europe and the second largest in the world. The environment of the Virgo interferometer is quieter than that of a spacecraft orbiting the earth. Virgo, the construction of which was completed in June 2003 and is at present is in the commissioning phase, will run day and night listening to all gravitational signals which may arrive at any time and coming from any part of the Universe. The signals are detected, recorded and pre-analysed through an on-line computing system. These data will then be made available to the scientific community for further analysis.
Visit to Gran Sasso National Laboratory
The Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS) is one of four INFN national laboratories. It is the largest underground laboratory in the world for experiments in particle physics, particle astrophysics and nuclear astrophysics. It is used as a worldwide facility by scientists, presently over 900 in number, from 29 different countries, working at about 15 experiments in their different phases. It is located between the towns of L'Aquila and Teramo, about 120 km from Rome. The underground facilities are located on a side of the ten kilometres long freeway tunnel crossing the Gran Sasso Mountain. They consist of three large experimental halls, each about 100 m long, 20 m wide and 18 m high and service tunnels, for a total volume of about 180,000 cubic metres. The average 1400 m rock coverage gives a reduction factor of one million in the cosmic ray flux; moreover, the neutron flux is thousand times less than on the surface, thanks to the smallness of the Uranium and Thorium content of the dolomite rocks of the mountain. The headquarters and the support facilities, among which offices, different services, library and canteen, are located in the external building. The mission of the Laboratory is to host experiments that require a low background environment in the field of astroparticle physics and nuclear astrophysics and other disciplines that can profit of its characteristics and of its infrastructures. Main research topics of the present programme are: neutrino physics with neutrinos naturally produced in the Sun and in Supernova explosions and neutrino oscillations with a beam from CERN (CNGS program), search for neutrino mass in neutrinoless double beta decay, dark matter search, nuclear reactions of astrophysical interest. Both the external as well as the underground structures of the National Laboratory of Gran Sasso are located inside the so called Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga.
Visit to the ENEA Research Centre of Brasimone
The Brasimone Research Centre is located in the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano mountains, within the Brasimone basin in the Camugnano municipality (Bologna). It was set up in the ‘60s with the aim of carrying out studies on the development of the fast breeder European reactors. Its current activities concern:
- controlled thermonuclear fusion technologies and derivative industrial applications, which fall mainly within the European Union Fusion Programme, and focus on the ITER Project (International Thermonuclear Engineering Reactor), for the creation of a 1500 MW prototype reactor; the Demo Project (Demonstration Reactor) to demonstrate the economic feasibility of nuclear fusion; the interaction of hydrogen with breeder and structural materials;
- within the development of innovative nuclear Accelerator Driven Systems for the transmutation of nuclear waste, research on the development of technologies and structural materials to utilise in presence of heavy liquid metals, particularly lead and bismuth lead, is being carried out;
- experimental activities supporting the Thermo-dynamic Solar Project on concentration solar systems have been started, performing several types of analysis to determine and quantify corrosion and oxidation phenomena taking place on the surface of materials exposed to fused inorganic salts, as well as possible ensuing effects in the areas thermically altered by the welding process.;
- metrology, metallography, mechanical controls and tests;
- radioprotection and environmental monitoring, which are carried out at the Environmental Radiometric Laboratory.
Training courses on safety (fire safety, first aid, safety assessment, risk evaluation) are also conducted in support of the National Research Programme in Antarctica, the Public Administration and the Small and Medium Enterprises. The Centre, employing around 130 people, hosts an Information and Training Centre on energy and the environment which is open to the public.
Visit to Caorso Nuclear Power Plant
Consisting of one 860MWe BWR, it operated from 1978 until 1990, when it was closed following the referendum of November 1987 The reactor has been defuelled and the fuel is now stored in the pool of the plant. An "on site Interim storage" will be realised by 2004. On August 4, 2000 the Ministry of Industry issued a Decree authorizing the following decommissioning activities (for other activities the presentation of a global decommissioning plan is required within one year from the above cited Decree and has been presented on august 3rd, 2001):
- dry storage of irradiated fuel
- dismantling of the turbine and Off-Gas
- dismantling of the RHR towers
- decontamination of the main circuit
- treatment of previously produced waste
Visit to TRIGA Research Reactor – LENA Laboratory at Pavia University
The Laboratory of Applied Nuclear Energy ("LENA") is an Interdepartmental Research Centre of the University of Pavia which operate, among other facilities, a 250 kW TRIGA (Training Research and Isotope production General Atomics) Mark II Research Nuclear Reactor, a pool-type research reactor moderated and cooled by light water. The reactor is at the disposal of researchers from Pavia University and of other users, for research activities, training and education and other services. The TRIGA Mark II nuclear research reactor offers different in- and out-core neutron irradiation channels, each characterized by different neutron spectra, used to perform experimental activities. Nowadays, after more than forty years of operation, more than 600 publications related to research conducted with the reactor have been issued in various fields: nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry, activation analysis, nuclear physics, reactor physics , dosimetry.
Also the following irradiation facilities and devices are available at the LENA laboratory:
- IBA Cyclotron facility for radioisotope production
- X-Ray industrial generator
- Radiochemistry laboratory equipped with hot cells and devices for manipulation and analysis of any kind of radionuclides
- Low-background Gamma spectrometry laboratory
- Radioprotection instrumentation
- Electronic devices for experiments and for training.