Monday, July 26, 2010

CERN To Idle All Of Its Accelerators In 2012

We knew the LHC shutdown was coming, but no one was prepared for the extent of the shutdown that is widespread throughout the LHC.

CERN management has announced that the scheduled LHC shutdown in 2012 will be extremely widespread and will require extensive manpower that all of its accelerator operations will also be shut down.

Most crucially, the CERN brass say the shutdown will allow them to redo thousands of unreliable solder connections between the accelerator's massive superconducting magnets and make other modifications. Today, Stephen Myers, CERN's director for accelerators and technology, told the 1000 physicists gathered here for the annual International Conference on High Energy Physics that the shutdown will be extended from 12 months to 15 months. Even with the extra time, CERN will need all the workers it can get, which is why they're shutting down all eight of the lab's accelerators. "Our plan is to stop all of the accelerators at CERN and redeploy manpower," Myers says.

That will most likely come as hard news to hundreds of physicists working on smaller experiments fed by those other accelerators, such as the 200 working on the OPERA neutrino experiment in the underground Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. For a year, CERN will stop sending a beam of neutrinos to Gran Sasso, turn off the flow of antiprotons for antihydrogen experiments, and cease the production of radioactive isotopes for nuclear science experiments. But that's a price CERN is willing to pay to get the LHC running at full energy and intensity, Myers says: "Our priority is the LHC." He notes that CERN also stopped all of its accelerators in 2005 to focus on problems in the LHC's construction.

Again, it is understandable that, for the LHC to run at the energy that it was designed, all of the suspected electrical problems must be resolved or they'll have another disaster like the last one. So one can certainly see them putting all of their resources into making sure the main experiment, the LHC, is running the way it should, or else the whole point of building the facility in the first place is gone.

Still, all of those experiments will go for a year or more with no data, and it gives a glimmer of hope to the Tevatron that its life will be extended for a couple more years.


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