Russians Working on SSC Face a Dim Future

MANY employees at the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) will have a hard time finding new jobs. But few will face the difficulties confronting two dozen Russian physicists who moved to Waxahachie to work on the giant atom smasher. ``Bread and milk are more important in Russia now than science,'' says Oleg Prokofiev, a physicist from St. Petersburg. Mr. Prokofiev was one of several hundred physicists from the former Soviet Union who invested years of work in the SSC.

``This decision to cancel the collider increases instability in Russia,'' says Lithuanian physicist Guenakh Mitselmakher. Two years ago, Mr. Mitselmakher left a lucrative job in Europe and moved his wife and two children to Waxahachie. With a daughter in college, he is worried about his financial situation and the political situation in Russia. ``The SSC project was a stabilizing factor for Russian scientists,'' he says. ``It was important to keep scientists that worked in the military industrial complex busy with peaceful projects, producing something useful for humanity.''

Physicist Vladimir Glebov says he came to work on the SSC because ``it was impossible to do good science in Russia. This was the best hope for people doing high-energy physics.''

Mitselmakher points out that the stagnant Russian economy is forcing scientists to take on any kind of project that promises an income. ``There is desperation in Soviet factories,'' he says. ``Making bombs is much simpler than what we are doing here. If they want to make bombs again, it wouldn't be difficult.''

To illustrate his point, Mitselmakher presents a copy of a letter sent to Vice President Al Gore by Byelorussian leader Stanislav Shushkevich. In support of the SSC, Mr. Shushkevich writes, ``It is hoped that this project will allow the technical expertise of some Byelorussian scientists, who used to work on Soviet nuclear-weapons program to be employed in this joint venture, thus ``turning swords into plowshares.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.