The journey to Jiayuguang (Gansu Province) on the occasion of the “3rd Sino-German Workshop on Radioactive Waste Disposal” was “at the fringe” in multiple regards. Jiayuguang is an oasis along the silk road and the genuine origin of the Great Wall. As a coincidence our workshop was held directly after the pioneering “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation” invited the Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, with participation of more than 20 Government Leaders.
Baishan (ca. 100 km North-East of Jiayuguang), in the Gobi Desert is a selected site for nuclear waste disposal in future. Currently, Baishan (North Mountains) is being prepared as an Underground Research Laboratory and international researchers are invited to participate!
How is this research journey related to the ESM project? Safe nuclear waste disposal is key challenge worldwide – and Earth System Modeling is a key for understanding the complex geosystem under anthropogenic pressure and safety assessment. The Helmholtz Association is currently developing a concept for “Integrity of nuclear waste repository systems – Cross-scale system understanding and analysis".
The “Silk Road” area is also extremely interesting for hydrological research – “at the fringe” of Desert – Oasis – and the Qilian Mountains (5 km high). Despite the touchable glaciers of the Northern Tibetan Plateau the area is very dry, the melting water flows towards East into the North China Plain. How does the “fringe” between oasis and desert look like? In China it has to be a rail or high way of course – underpinning the Silk Road philosophy of connections to Europe.
Before leaving Jiayuguang, I decided to explore the borderline between oasis and desert on my typical personal way (city running), which of course turned into a “desert challenge”. An exhausting but unique experience, literally standing at the fringe between watered life and desert, touching the starting point of the Great Wall, bringing our scientific work closer to reality and thinking about relevance.
Finally, my ultimate research travel tip: always put your sun cream into your standard travel supplies!
Photos by: Thomas Nagel, Wang Ju, Olaf Kolditz.