CERN looks to idle world's largest particle collider in energy crisis
The research facility is looking to idle the world's largest particle collider during times of peak demand.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research - also known as CERN - is looking to idle the world's largest particle collider during times of peak demand for heating as Europe struggles with securing resources, according to an official speaking to the Wall Street Journal.
A CERN coordinator, Serge Claudet, told WSJ that CERN will make discussions with governments that fund experiments on how it could halt particle research to make it through the winter.
"Our concern is really grid stability, because we do all we can to prevent a blackout in our region," Claudet said.
The world's most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, consists of a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets whose temperature must be cooled to -456 degrees Fahrenheit even when the beam is turned off.
The collider consumes one-third as much as Geneva, and EDF, a French utility, powers the system. EDF has been struggling to fix corrosion problems at its nuclear plants.
Shutting down the machine, which cost $4.4 billion, could impede experiments for weeks to come.
"It’s a voluntary action. You don’t want to break your toy," Claudet said. CERN is in discussion with EDF to warn it that will need to cut power consumption, he said.
CERN has 8 accelerators and will prioritize shutting down other accelerators before the Large Hadron Collider.
Energy crisis pushes nuclear comeback worldwide
Nuclear power is becoming more popular as countries look for alternatives with the cost of importing energy growing globally and climate crises causing devastation.
The Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011—the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986—led to a drop in nuclear power investment as governments ran terrified and safety concerns grew. However, the tide is now shifting back in favor of nuclear power after Moscow's operation in Ukraine, the ensuing squeeze on energy supplies, and Europe's push to wean itself off of Russian oil and gas.
With rising gas and power prices and limited resources likely to result in widespread hardship this winter, governments must make difficult decisions.
Some experts contend that nuclear power should not be a viable alternative, while others contend that given the prevalence of crises, it must continue to be a component of the global energy mix.
Although 32 countries presently use nuclear energy to produce 10% of the world's electricity, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) boosted its predictions for the first time since the 2011 tragedy in September. The IAEA now expects installed capacity to double by 2050 under the most favorable scenario.