On June 22/23, 2000 the IRAM Executive Council met in GRENOBLE for its regular annual meeting. Whereas normally the Annual Report 1999, the comments and recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee, and the financial statements for 1999, 2000, and 2001, as well as a 5-year forward look would have been the major points on the agenda, the developments on the Plateau de Bure since the extraordinary Council meeting on January 27th, 2000, and the question of IRAM's current and possible future involvement in the ALMA project figured equally highly.
Concerning the Plateau de Bure, the Technical Division of the CNRS-INSU has not only advanced the work on the old cable car system to use it after detailed checking and repair for the transport of materials to and from the Plateau de Bure, but has, in parallel, prepared and issued a call for tender for a new access study for the site. This study is currently carried our by a consortium of companies led by SCETAUROUTE, Lyon.
For the ALMA project the Council took note of the current level of involvement of IRAM in Phase 1 activities at a level of about 20 man-years, not counting the contributions made by some of the IRAM astronomers, and it discussed possible longer term activities without, however, drawing final conclusions in view of the pending decisions about the distribution of tasks between Europe and the US, and also within Europe.
This year, the running budget proposal for 2001 posed a particular problem because it has, for the first time, to absorb the full impact of the implementation of the new French labour legislation, which limits the average number of working hours per week to 35. Despite the fact that IRAM did not ask to fully compensate the roughly 10 manpower due to this regulation, money must be found for 6 additional positions that are needed to continue 24 hours/day services at the observatories and to strengthen some of the groups in Grenoble who had already reached their capacity limits before. The Council took note of these needs but deferred a final decision about the budget increase for 2001 to its October meeting.
The same holds for the investment budget despite the fact that its situation is quite different. The two accidents that hit the Plateau de Bure in 1999 have caused a delay in the completion of Antenna 6 and a major interruption of the work on the N-S track extension. Money foreseen for these activities has therefore not been spent. On the longer term the investment budget will, however, be under severe pressure if all the projects which are currently under discussion and which are considered as scientifically very valuable would be executed.