Major budget cuts to slow world's biggest atom smasher: CERN

The director-general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Rolf Heuer, presented a proposal for USD 433 million in savings in 2011-2015 to its 20 member states at a meeting here, spokesman James Gillies told AFP.

"It will have an impact on the speed to which we get results, but not a dramatic one," said Gillies.

In June, member states turned down CERN's original proposal for a budget of about 5.0 billion francs over the period, asking Heuer to make "more of an effort" at the extraordinary meeting of the organisation's finance committee today, Gillies and staff representatives said.

Gillies insisted that CERN was trying to avoid harming the huge Large Hadron Collider experiment, a 27-kilometre circular particle accelerator buried under the French-Swiss border, and prevent staff cuts."Management felt it could slow things down without compromising the future," he explained.

Several hundred staff and researchers took part in a one hour protest rally at CERN, as the organisation's staff association warned that some countries wanted even deeper savings than those tabled, including job cuts.

"Budgetary cuts are going to slow down our accelerators," said Gianni Deroma, head of the staff association.

"Additional budget restrictions could ruin all the efforts made so far and the marvellous first results given by the LHC," he told the rally, where physicists rubbed shoulders with translators and support staff.

The USD 5.2 billion machine is attempting to recreate powerful but microscopic bursts of energy that mimic conditions close to the Big Bang that created the universe.After a shaky start and a 14-month delay, experiments at the LHC have in a few months replicated discoveries that took decades to complete at the rival Tevatron accelerator in the United States.

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