The European Org-anization for Nu-clear Research (CE-RN) stopped the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ahead of schedule to save electricity. The scientific program for the next year will be seriously cut. All this is happening against the backdrop of a defiant refusal to cooperate with Russian scientists.
“Sobered up” by the winter
The CERN complex, located on the border of Switzerland and France, consumes an average of 1.3 terawatt-hours per year – as a city with a population of 230,000 people. About half of the energy is taken up by a particle accelerator nearly 27 kilometers across, largely from a 27-megawatt liquid helium cryogenic system. Every winter, when the load on generating capacities increases, the physics laboratory goes into hibernation.
This year, they turned it off two weeks earlier. In ad-dition, in 2023, CERN will reduce the use of the LHC by 20 percent. So the scientific organization, as the site says, “contributes to the collective effort” to save electricity. The decision was made after negotiations with the main supplier – the French company EDF.
In June, a “energy sobriety” campaign was anno-unced in France. Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runashe called for a “general mobilization” for “ten percent savings.” The population was forbidden to warm houses and offices to temperatures above 19 d-egrees, connect hot water in public buildings, leave do-ors open in heated or air-conditioned stores, and hig-hlight advertising at night.
And electricity bills continue to rise. In August, the wholesale price was a thousand percent higher than last year’s level, reaching up to 1,000 euros per MWh. According to experts, this does not allow scientific organizations to meet the budget.
The energy crisis, exacerbated by problems with nuclear power plants, is felt so strongly in the country that the grid operator is warning of a possible shortage in the coming winter.
CERN is preparing for a complete shutdown from external sources. Usually, in the event of a supply failure from France, the network is automatically transferred to the Swiss, but now this may not be enough, the organization believes.
“There is a possibility of a simultaneous power outage. If this happens, the main services will receive emergency power from diesel generators,” the CERN website reports.
Stocks of diesel fuel will last for two days. Then you have to deliver.
Even in sleep mode, the collider must be maintained: if the accelerator suddenly stops completely, a significant part of the equipment can fail.
“It is impossible to turn off the complex completely, it is almost tantamount to building a new collider. But it can be suspended, mothballed and energy costs reduced by one and a half orders of magnitude,” says Dmitry Zykov, candidate of technical sciences, science popularizer, in an interview with Sputnik radio.
Scientists state that saving electricity will slow down the solution of scientific problems. “Since CERN closed a little earlier than usual, it will collect less statistics for physical measurements. This is certainly sad,” says physicist Denis Derkach, head of the HSE Big Data Analysis Research Laboratory.
At the same time, the scientist involved in CERN data processing does not expect grandiose consequences: “Most likely, this will lead to the fact that now it will take a little longer for new discoveries. Nothing super-terrible has happened for the collider.”
As RIA Novosti reported, the LHC resumed operation in the summer of 2022 after a large-scale upgrade. In particular, four main detectors of the installation were upgraded – ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb. This is the third of five cycles of the scientific program, calculated until 2040, a three-year one. Scientists hope that the increased capabilities of the installation will make it possible to advance in the search for phenomena that do not fit into the Standard Model – a theoretical construct that describes the interaction of elementary particles. Approximately eight percent of the scientific contribution to the work of the Large Hadron Collider comes from Russia. About 700 of our physicists and 12 scientific institutes took part in the creation of the installation, including the latest modernization.
At the same time, Russia is not a member of CERN. Previously, there was observer status, but on March 8, the CERN Council suspended it at the request of Ukraine, an associate member of the organization.
At the same time, the council announced its intention to promote initiatives to support Ukrainian scientists in the field of high energy physics. So, part of the projects that were supposed to be implemented in Russia were transferred to Kyiv.
At the same time, a cooperation agreement between Russia and CERN continues to operate until 2024, that is, until the end of the current scientific cycle. Such contracts are concluded for five years and, as a rule, are extended. In June, the organization announced that it was not going to prolong the agreement. CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti, however, noted that she “leaves the door ajar to continue scientific cooperation, if conditions permit in the future.”
Scientists without names
Nevertheless, Russian researchers continue to participate in the project. “Current cooperation exists. At the level of scientists, it has always been,” Zykov emphasizes.
However, this is not advertised. If earlier names were indicated in the articles, now one of the four collaborations is listed in the “authors” column.
“It’s quite difficult to break everything, because each group has its own area of responsibility. For example, 80 groups participate in one experiment, and the necessary specialists may not be in another group,” explains Zykov.
Also, the Russians are still servicing the equipment that is part of the particle accelerator.
“Contacts (contacts. – Ed.) are also being continued with CERN, <…> because without our specialists they simply cannot turn on and operate their installations that are fundamentally important for them. Therefore, our guys continue to go there on business trips for one or two month… From this point of view, nothing has changed,” the director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics. G. I. Budker of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Pavel Logachev.
Upon completion of the third cycle of operation of the mega-installation, a new stage of modernization is ahead, after which it will be launched again in 2028. Unless, of course, politics and economics interfere with this.