Disaster Recovery

Geek Trivia: What outside group forces the Large Hadron Collider to shut down every winter?

The Large Hadron Collider answers to an agency that forces the installation to shut down for over three weeks every winter -- and for a reason most don't expect.

The outside entity with an often unexpected level of authority over the Large Hadron Collider is none other than the power company Électricité de France (EDF), which is the primary energy source for the Large Hadron Collider. Under the terms of its contract with CERN, the Large Hadron Collider's parent laboratory, EDF requires the Large Hadron Collider to cease all accelerator operations for no less than 22 days every winter. The reason? The strain that the LHC puts on the local electrical grid would impede EDF's ability to provide heat to its remaining customers during the coldest parts of the French winter.

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.

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About

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 a...

21 comments
Awahili Guni
Awahili Guni

But wasn't sure what exactly though, knowing Power and Winter doesn't really get along too well except if you were in Russia (USSR) or Siberia; don't know how they do it and don't want to know either nor do not invite me to their Ice Hotel with their Ice Bar either. :-P So does being half right count?

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

and managed to find the particle responsible for Murphy's Law They call it the Biggs Hoson.

mwhooper
mwhooper

I know that most everything everywhere in Europe closes down for 3 to 4 week vacations in the summer. I thought this was the winter version.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Well, I figured it had something to do with electricity and heating.

labattomy
labattomy

Honestly I thought it would be to perform housekeeping tasks like sweeping the floor of the chamber and cleaning up all the mess those darn colliding particles leave... "..I just cleaned up this place !!..."

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

It was mentioned that a previous month long shut down was due to failure of a coolant system but there was no mention of the uncanny cause of this coolant failure. A time traveler (Eloi Cole) from the future was aprehended at the LHC site for walking around without an access badge. He said he dropped a baguette in to the air intake system in order to change the course of history where in the future the LHC project had unforseen consequences. http://crave.cnet.co.uk/gadgets/man-arrested-at-large-hadron-collider-claims-hes-from-the-future-49305387/

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I figured it was a herd of critters on their annual migration through the area, either causing or subject to some vague form of potential harm.

escale
escale

Hey! I think you also missed the frustrated gold-mine TV show one-season-only Flash Forward. Where colliding particles in the LHC creates a global blackout and the whole world saw its future for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. Trivia: in the first episode Seth McFarlane acts as FBI agent.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

knowing what winter is like probably helps :p :D I toyed with the idea that it was Brigitte Bardot using the tunnel as a training track for her fur-tracking killer ferrets, but then I figured, nah - it's supposed to be a non-gov org, definitely the power company.

sboverie
sboverie

The link was funny. So a time traveler comes from a future where the Higgs Bosun discovery led to unlimited power, end of poverty and kit kats for everyone.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

"...the Large Hadron Collider was a central plot device in both the prose and screen versions of Dan Browns Angels & Demons and Robert J. Sawyer's FlashForward."

seanferd
seanferd

It isn't sexist or idiotic, and it is funny, so - win!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

weren't early colliders cleaned by sending through a skirt-wearing ferret? Seriously.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

and you get the image of an epic cockfight.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

http://history.fnal.gov/felicia.html She didn't actually clean it. She pulled the leader line through that the tech then used to pull the 'mophead'. Don't let the last headline put you off. 'falls victim to robot' means 'replaced by robot'.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

For some reason this just makes the world a brighter place. Thanks Palmetto.

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