CERN gets ready for Europe energy crunch

A view of the Large Hadro Collider tunnel from 2019. (Credit: CERN/ Maximilien Brice)

Europe’s energy squeeze is threatening to slow down the world’s largest particle collider.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is drawing up plans to pull the plug on some of its particle accelerators, including the Large Hadron Collider, in case France’s power grid faces too much pressure.

“Our concern is really grid stability, because we do all we can to prevent a blackout in our region,” Serge Claudet, chair of the centre’s energy management panel, told the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters. European countries are drafting plans to reduce energy consumption and ration gas resources this winter, after Gazprom announced that it would suspend indefinitely gas supply to Europe through its main pipeline Nord Stream, claiming technical issues. The European Union has accused Russia of using energy as a weapon of war by deliberately driving up prices.

The CERN complex, which stretches across the French-Swiss border, burns through almost 200 megawatts of energy at peak operating hours – a third of what the city of Geneva consumes, according to the WSJ.

After a three-year break for maintenance, CERN restarted its Large Hadron Collider in April and has resumed studying the Higgs boson particle, a force-carrying particle responsible for giving other particles their mass, discovered by CERN in 2012. To accelerate the particles and get them to slam against each other, the collider requires a large amount of power. Cutting that could delay experiments for weeks.

CERN’s Claudet told the WSJ that CERN was working on a plan that would be presented to its public funders for approval.

Caught in the crossfire. This isn’t the first time that the research organisation finds itself in the crosshairs of the ongoing war in Ukraine. In June, it suspended collaboration agreements with Russia and Belarus, three months after suspending Moscow’s membership.

The Wall Street Journal