Czech-Russian nuclear research terminated after over 60 years

For more than six decades, Czech scientists have been involved in nuclear research at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in the Russian town of Dubna. Now, the Czech Republic has announced it will terminate its long-term cooperation with the Russian institution, following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, one of Europe’s main nuclear research centres, was founded by the Eastern Bloc countries in 1956, just two years after the establishment of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva.

One of the 10 founding members of the research centre, located in the Moscow region, was the then Czechoslovakia. Ever since then, Czech scientific activities in the nuclear research field have been closely linked with that institution, says Vladimír Wagner from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Academy of Sciences:

“We have recently had a great success with the verification of the neutrino mass, which was part of the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino experiment in Germany. It was a follow-up to research carried out in Troitsk and Dubna, which were mostly international projects.”

While the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Geneva is home to the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, the research in Russia’s Dubna is more varied, focusing, for instance, on the discovery of superheavy elements.

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna | Photo: Hrustov,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Both centres operate on a similar principle as the European Space Agency. Each member state pays an annual fee, with the Czech Republic sending around USD 6 million each year to Dubna. The money then goes back to scientists and companies through grants and projects.

The Czech Republic has become the first country to leave the 19-member Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia. According to the Minister of Education, Petr Gazdík, it is no longer possible for Czechia to cooperate on research in the field of nuclear technology with a state that has militarily threatened the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Jan Dobeš is the chairman of the Committee for Cooperation between the Czech Republic and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research.

“In practice, steps are being taken to suspend Czech activities as well as fees. There are currently 25 experts from the Czech Republic working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and all of them have been asked to leave.”

Meanwhile, the other four EU member states that are part of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Slovakia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, are also considering terminating their membership.

Czech scientists are now looking for alternative solutions for their international projects, but many of them are likely to remain unfinished as a result of the terminated cooperation.

A number of scientific collaborations between the Czech Republic and institutions from Russia and Belarus have already been terminated or suspended as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.