CERN is considering SHUTTING DOWN most of its particle accelerators and ‘idling’ the Large Hadron Collider in response to Europe’s energy crisis

  • CERN is considering shutting down the majority of its particle accelerators
  • The Swiss scientific facility wants to keep Large Hadron Collider in ‘idle’ mode
  • Shutting it down would set experiments back weeks as it takes so long to cool
  • The proposal has been made to help conserve power during the energy crisis 

Europe’s energy crisis is being felt by everyone – including the scientists working deep underground in Switzerland at the Large Hadron Collider.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, is even considering taking its particle accelerators offline.

This is due to the accelerators’ high energy demands, and the organisation’s desire to keep the region’s electricity grid stable.

However, the scientists do not want to shut down the Large Hadron Collider completely, so are drawing up plans to temporarily switch it to ‘idle’ mode.

‘It’s a voluntary action,’ CERN energy chair Serge Claudet told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the action. 

‘You don’t want to break your toy.’

CERN operates the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator (pictured) famous for its 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson

At peak operation, CERN uses nearly nearly 200 megawatts of power – a third as much energy as the city of Geneva – making it one of France’s largest energy consumers 

WHAT ARE THE PLANS TO REDUCING CERN’S ENERGY USAGE? 

At peak operation, CERN uses nearly nearly 200 megawatts of power – a third as much energy as the city of Geneva – making it one of France’s largest energy consumers.

The proposal is to shut down most of the eight CERN particle accelerators during periods of peak demand, to lower its energy consumption by 25 per cent.

This will be presented to government representatives of France and Switzerland, that fund its operation, at the end of the month.

However, it only wants to idle the €4.4 billion (£3.8bn) Large Hadron Collider, as a shut down would set back experiments by weeks.

This is due to the amount of time and energy it takes to cool down the superconducting magnets required to bend the particle beam around the tunnel.

The news came after Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy service, announced it would be indefinitely cutting off the natural gas supply through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany last Friday.

This is the main route used by Russia to export gas to Europe, and had been shut down for three days prior to the announcement ‘due to maintenance’.

Moscow blamed ‘oil leaks’ in a turbine for the delay in re-opening the pipeline, but claimed that it was due to equipment faults from Siemens, its German partner.

Gazprom warned a lack of spare parts threatened the Portovaya compressor station near St. Petersburg.

It cited Siemens as saying that the necessary repairs could only be done in ‘the conditions of a specialised workshop’.

However, Gazprom’s chief executive Alexei Miller has claimed that engineers will not be able to carry out the repairs, to sanctions against his company – a claim that German chancellor Chancellor Olaf Scholz has since disputed.

‘It is obvious that nothing, nothing at all, stands in the way of the further transport of this turbine and its installation in Russia. It can be transported and used at any time,’ said Scholz, according to The New York Times. 

The energy giant already reduced flows through Nord Stream by 40 per cent in June, accelerating a surge in wholesale gas prices. 

Russia has been accused of weaponising gas supplies as retaliation against the European Union for supporting Ukraine in fending off the Russian invasion.

At peak operation, CERN uses nearly 200 megawatts of power – a third as much energy as the city of Geneva – making it one of France’s largest energy consumers.

Mr Claudet told the Wall Street Journal: ‘Our concern is really grid stability, because we do all we can to prevent a blackout in our region.’

‘If we are given a budget to do science and, voluntarily, we stop science to save energy, we have to make sure we have the support of the respective countries.’ 

The proposal is for CERN to shut down most of the eight particle accelerators during periods of peak demand, to lower its energy consumption by 25 per cent.

This will be presented to government representatives of France and Switzerland, that fund its operation, at the end of the month.

However, it only wants to idle the €4.4 billion (£3.8bn) Large Hadron Collider, as a shut down would set back experiments by weeks.

This is due to the amount of time and energy it takes to cool down the superconducting magnets required to bend the particle beam around the tunnel.

Mr Claudet said the the Swiss scientific facility is in talks with its French energy provider, EDF SA, to get a 24-hour warning if it needs to start reducing its energy consumption.

CERN only wants to idle the €4.4 billion (£3.8bn) Large Hadron Collider, as a shut down would set back experiments by weeks. Pictured: A general view of the Large Hadron Collider

In April, the Large Hadron Collider was fired up again after a three year break for maintenance and to make the instruments more sensitive.

The LHC works by smashing atoms together to break them apart and discover the subatomic particles that exist inside them, and how they interact. 

The upgrades have given researchers a higher resolution view inside atoms – capturing data 30 million times per second – and allowed more runs.

Since then, scientists have announced the discovery of three new ‘exotic particles’ that could help to explain how our universe was formed.

The new structures exist for just a hundred thousandth of a billionth of a billionth of a second and are built out of quarks, the tiniest particles ever discovered.

Atoms contain smaller particles called neutrons and protons, which are made up of three quarks each, while this ‘exotic’ matter is made up of four and five quarks – known as tetraquarks and pentaquarks.

The particles discovered are one new pentaquark and two tetraquarks, taking the total number found at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to 21

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of three new ‘exotic particles’  in July that could help to explain how our Universe was formed

WHAT IS THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

It is located in a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border.

The LHC started colliding particles in 2010. Inside the 27-km LHC ring, bunches of protons travel at almost the speed of light and collide at four interaction points. 

Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes.

They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets.

The LHC (pictured) was restarted on April 5th 2015, having been turned off for two years during a major renovation project that cost £100 million 

The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy.

These collisions generate new particles, which are measured by detectors surrounding the interaction points. 

A view of the LHC’s Compact Muon Solenoid experiment is shown

By analysing these collisions, physicists from all over the world are deepening our understanding of the laws of nature.

While the LHC is able to produce up to 1 billion proton-proton collisions per second, the HL-LHC will increase this number, referred to by physicists as ‘luminosity’, by a factor of between five and seven, allowing about 10 times more data to be accumulated between 2026 and 2036. 

This means that physicists will be able to investigate rare phenomena and make more accurate measurements. 

For example, the LHC allowed physicists to unearth the Higgs boson in 2012, thereby making great progress in understanding how particles acquire their mass. The subatomic particle had long been theorised but wasn’t confirmed until 2013. 

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