Annually, the Large Hadron Collider consumes roughly 1,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity. That's equivalent to the annual consumption of roughly 92,000 U.S. households. No wonder EDF would rather not divert power to the Large Hadron Collider during the most taxing weeks of the year. For its part, CERN simply uses the winter months to conduct annual offline maintenance on the Large Hadron Collider.
Should CERN violate the terms of its contract with EDF and not shut down, the power company can levy some rather extraordinary fines against the lab. In a worst-case scenario, EDF could cut off the Large Hadron Collider's power supply, forcing the lab to switch to its backup energy supplier in Switzerland or, worse, its onsite diesel generators.
This is far from an ideal situation, as the Large Hadron Collider's array of superconducting magnets draw 300 megawatts of electricity, and if they were to suddenly lose power to their cooling systems, they would quickly quench, ripping themselves apart in the process. An uncontrolled coolant failure is what caused the Large Hadron Collider to endure a monthlong shutdown mere days after coming online in September 2008. In other words, CERN wants to stay in EDF's good graces, just in case its failover systems aren't perfect.
That's not just a static-charged sword of Damocles, it's a contractually constricting case of Geek Trivia.
The quibble of the week
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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.