CERN draws up shutdown plans to save energy

Particle accelerators could be next casualty of Russia's war on Ukraine

CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, is preparing to idle some of its particle accelerators to save electricity, currently in short supply due to the war in Ukraine.

Serge Claudet, head of the CERN Energy Management Commission, lately told The Wall Street Journal that CERN is making plans to shut down some of its eight particle accelerators, including the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), to assure the stability of the electrical grid in Europe.

The proposal is expected to be presented to the governments of France and Switzerland by the end of the month.

"Given the current context and as part of its social responsibility, CERN is drawing up a plan to reduce its energy consumption this winter, which will be put forward to the CERN Council during the forthcoming meeting the week of 26 September," a CERN spokesperson told The Register in an email.

The $4.4 billion LHC is the world's largest publicly known particle collider, consisting of a 27 km (17 mi) circular tunnel in the vicinity of Geneva, Switzerland and France. It was used to observe the Higgs boson in 2012. The giant particle smasher resumed operations on July 5, 2022, after a three-year shutdown for maintenance and upgrades.

Presently, CERN is using the LHC to explore the origin of mass, dark matter and dark energy, antimatter, and other gaps in the Standard Model of particle physics.

According to The Wall Street Journal, CERN officials are talking to representatives of France's state-run power company EDF SA to arrange a day's warning should a shutdown become necessary to save power. CERN aims to keep the LHC operational if possible by prioritizing the shutdown of its other particle accelerators, for a 25 percent energy savings.

CERN says the LHC and associated experiments have consumed between 600 GWh and 750 GWh per year, while total energy consumption for CERN is about 1.3 TWh per year.

France produces about 500 TWh per year, the Geneva canton of Switzerland produces 3 TWh per year, and the whole of the EU manages to generate about 3,400 TWh annually.

Operating the LHC and other particle probing equipment now looks a bit extravagant in light of European energy shortfall following from the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing diplomatic and trade fallout. France and other countries in Europe rely on natural gas and oil supplied by Russia, which has become scarce since last week when Russia indefinitely suspended gas flowing from its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

France has accused Russia of using energy supplies as "a weapon of war," according to Reuters.

Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, has urged European officials to stand united against Russia rather than selling out Ukraine to resolve unrest over energy prices.

On Tuesday, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson told The Associated Press that the EU's energy ministers plan to meet in Brussels on Friday to discuss how to deal with the energy market turmoil. ®

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