Monday, October 3, 2022

CERN atom-smashers ponder response to Russia’s invasion

GENEVA ( Associated Press) — The Geneva-area research center that houses the world’s largest atom smasher is grappling with ways to punish Russia’s government while protecting Russian researchers who work to help solve the deepest mysteries of the universe.

CERN, also known as the European Center for Nuclear Research, has a mission to facilitate collaboration among its 23 member countries and beyond. The war in Ukraine, an associate member state, has the organization trying to calibrate its response to join international action against Russia, which was an official CERN observer before the invasion, without sacrificing science.

Some 1,000 scientists, or nearly 7% of the 18,000 researchers involved with CERN, are affiliated with Russian institutions — most, though not all, are Russian. If they are cut off from participating in experiments and other research, it could slow or complicate upcoming projects involving the center’s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator in an underground, 27-kilometer (17-mile) ring of superconducting magnets in and around Geneva.

A crucial decision for CERN’s governing council looms this week because the collider is set to start operating again in April after a hiatus of more than three years that partly resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. The collider requires regular pauses, and its next run is expected to generate huge amounts of new data.

“What kind of projects are the Russians involved here at CERN? It’s essentially in everything that we are doing,” Joachim Mnich, the director for research and computing. “We’re in discussions with the council to find a solution for that: Punish — as much as possible, as we can do — the Russian government. But not punishing our colleagues.”

The next operation of the accelerator, which is set to churn out new data starting this summer, will be only the third round of experiments in the collider: A first run took place from 2010 to 2012, and a second from 2015 to 2018. one starting in April is expected to last until 2026.

On March 8, the CERN Council joined international condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine and suspended new collaborations with Russia and its institutions indefinitely. It also expressed support for Russian scientists who “reject this invasion” and stripped Russia of its observer status.

CERN is run by 22 European countries and Israel as member states. The United States, Japan and the European Union have observer status. Ukraine is among seven countries with associate member status.


Follow the Associated Press’s coverage of the war at

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