Europe's new atom-smasher chief signals caution after breakdown
AFP - 2 hours 23 minutes ago
GENEVA (AFP) - - The new director of Europe's Big Bang machine signalled in an interview published Sunday that he will be more cautious than his predecessor, following a major breakdown that marred its multi-billion dollar launch.
The giant atom-smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), broke down only days after being switched on by CERN in September 2008, causing more than 30 million Swiss francs of repairs (20 million euros, 26 million dollars).
Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director-general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, told the Swiss newspaper Sonntag that the bill could even reach 40 million Swiss francs.
Heuer, who succeeded Frenchman Robert Aymar at the beginning of this month, said the LHC will be double checked by outside experts before any attempt is made to switch the machine back on, probably in July.
"I want to be sure that everything works," said Heuer of the six billion Swiss franc particle accelerator that runs through a 27-kilometre (17-mile) tunnel under the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.
"So I'll also let an external group make additional checks on the accelerator," he added.
The German particle physicist explained that he did not mistrust the 10,000 staff at the organisation and underlined that it was easier to act with hindsight.
"But when you have been working on something for so long, with time you can become blinded by the system and don't find all the faults," he added.
After more than a decade of painstaking work, the first beams were fired down the new accelerator in a blaze of publicity on September 10, 2008 only to break down due to a helium leak from its cooling system nine days later.
Heuer said he was inclined to make less of a fuss when the LHC, which is designed to help unravel the secrets of the origins of the universe, is switched on again, probably next summer.
"That'll only come when everything is working. I'm a bit more careful in that respect than my predecessor."
The LHC is meant to be ramped up progressively and Heuer has said that he does not want to push for a full energy beam until 2010 at the earliest, after new protection systems have been added.
The exact schedule for the experiment is due to be discussed by scientists early next month at a meeting in Chamonix, France.
The LHC is the most powerful in a series of atom-smashers at the 20-nation research organisation that have successfully helped advance knowledge of particle physics and the workings of the laws of nature since CERN was founded in 1954.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
The world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS), at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)'s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particule accelerator in Geneva. The new director of Europe's Big Bang machine signalled in an interview published Sunday that he will be more cautious than his predecessor, following a major breakdown that marred its multi-billion dollar launch.
Most Popular – Top Stories
Child matador kills six bulls in Mexico
'Dogs don't wear condoms,' says Baywatch star Anderson
Ring of fire: Indian Ocean to see solar eclipse
Hudson 'miracle' pilot gets hero's homecoming
World crisis deepens as downturn bites in Asia
View Complete List »