Particle physics laboratory

Austria to leave CERN particle physics laboratory

Scientists look at a computer screen at the CERN control center in Geneva on September 10, 2008. REUTERS / Fabrice Coffrini / Pool

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria is considering pulling out of the international particle physics laboratory CERN as its share of the high cost absorbs too much of the country’s budget for international research.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has created the largest machine ever created, a particle collider under the Franco-Swiss border outside Geneva which aims to recreate the conditions of the “Big Bang”, the origin of the universe.

Its construction has so far cost some 10 billion Swiss francs ($ 9 billion) but had to be closed in September just nine days after its start due to technical problems.

Austria has been a member of the 20-nation body since 1959, but is considering leaving it because the membership uses around 70% of its budget to fund such international research, Science Minister Johannes Hahn said Thursday evening.

“In the meantime, there have been various research projects in the European Union which offer a very large number of different scientific perspectives,” Hahn said in a statement.

Austria contributes 2.2% of the CERN budget. It will be the first country to leave the organization since the departure of Spain in 1969. Spain returned to the organization in 1983.

“CERN would be sorry to lose Austria as one of its Member States and sincerely believes that it would be in Austria’s interest to remain a member,” the organization said in a statement.

The collider is expected to start operating in September and report results on the smallest building blocks of matter in 2010.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall; edited by Jonathan Lynn


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