July 30, 2009

LHC Restart Pushed Back To November

The restart of the Large Hadron Collider has been pushed back from October to November, a CERN spokesman said on Thursday.

James Gillies, spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), told the Associated Press that the delay is intended to allow extra time to repair two small helium leaks. He added that the restart schedule could still be pushed back further if any other problems were discovered between now and October.

"Essentially what's happening is we're proceeding with extreme caution," Gillies told the AP.

"We have to be absolutely certain that when we switch on this time, it stays switched on."

"Decisions will be taken as to whether there are more that need repairing or not within the next couple of weeks, and when we know that, we will be in a position to be a little bit more definitive about what we plan to do for the rest of the year," he said.

On June 19, CERN Director General Rolf Heuer announced that the LHC restart would occur in autumn, although it would be 2-3 weeks later than originally foreseen.

"Many new tests have been developed," said Steve Myers, CERN Director for accelerators.

"That's given us a wealth of information about the LHC splices, and confidence that we will be in good shape for running this year."

It was a faulty splice in the high-current superconducting cable between two magnets in LHC sector 3-4 that resulted in the shutdown of the world's largest atom smasher just nine days after it was switched on in September 2008.

CERN said it had developed new non-invasive methods of testing the nearly 10,000 splices around the LHC ring.

"As part of this process, one more sector of the LHC, sector 4-5, is currently being warmed up. This will bring increased confidence that the splices are fully understood," CERN said in a press statement.

Repairs to the $10 billion LHC project are estimated to cost about 40 million Swiss francs ($37 million) over the course of several years.

According to the AP, if the LHC does restart in November as planned, it won't begin to produce collisions of subatomic particles until December. It takes about a month for the collider to warm to room temperature from its operating temperature at near absolute zero "“ colder than outer space.

The LHC is intended to recreate conditions that occurred immediately after the "Big Bang", which cosmologists believe is at the origin of our expanding universe.


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