About to get hit by an aircraft carrier? You need a Dump
But there's no cause for concern, according to Lamont. The LHC's monitoring and safety systems have always been capable of coping with an incident of this sort, and have been hugely upgraded since last September.
Had this week's feathered baguette-packing saboteur struck in coming months, with a brace of beams roaring round the LHC's magnetic motorway, the climbing temperatures would have been noted and the beams diverted - rather in the fashion that a runaway truck or train can be - into "dump caverns" lying a little off the main track of the LHC. In these large artificial caves, each beam would power into a "dump core", a massive 7m-long graphite block encased in steel, water cooled and then further wrapped in 750 tonnes of concrete and iron shielding. The dump core would become extremely hot and quite radioactive, but it has massive shielding and scores of metres of solid granite lie between the cavern and the surface. Nobody up top, except the control room staff, would even notice.
This whole process would be over in a trice, well before the birdy bread-bomber's shenanigans could warm the main track up to anywhere near quench temperature. Should the magnets then quench, no carrier-wreck catastrophe would result.
According to Lamont, provided the underlying fault didn't take too long to rectify, the LHC could be up and beaming again "within, say, three days" following such an incident.
We asked if more such incidents would occur, once the Collider is up and running for real from later this month.
"It's inevitable," the particle-wrangling doc told the Reg. "This thing is so complicated and so big, it's bound to have problems sometimes."
Meanwhile, it would seem that this particular snag has been solved, as the Sector 81 temperatures are now headed back down to their proper 1.9 K. ®