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Archive for Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Repairs stall atom smasher until spring

September 24, 2008

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— Scientists will have to wait until spring to use the world's biggest particle collider for groundbreaking research because repairs to damage will run into the laboratory's normal winter shutdown, the operators said Tuesday.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research earlier said an electrical failure Friday, nine days after the collider was first started, released a large amount of liquid helium into the tunnel.

Experts have gone into the 17-mile circular tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider to check on damage caused when an electrical connection between two magnets apparently melted, said James Gillies, spokesman for the organization, known as CERN.

They have to wait several weeks before the temperature can be raised from near absolute zero so they can actually go inside the equipment and fully assess the damage, Gillies said.

But he added it is clear at least two months will be needed for the whole procedure. That would go past the shutdown already scheduled for CERN's facility to begin its winter break.

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