- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 30, 2016

The world’s largest particle collider at CERN near Geneva was still on temporary standby mode Saturday, a day after a weasel gnawed on a cable and caused a power outage.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, plans to repair the $4.4 billion collider soon, The Associated Press reported.

Techworm.net said, however, that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built at a cost of $7 billion, spans 17 miles and “is designed to smash protons together close to the speed of light.”

“For the LHC alone, it is about 5 billion Swiss Francs or Dollars — but if you include the cost of large experiments, and computing — then you will be closer to 7 billion Dollars (knowing that exchange rates changed significantly over time),” Arnaud Marsollier, CERN spokesman, clarified in an email Saturday to The Washington Times.

The weasel bit the cable that went to a “66-kilovolt/18-kilovolt” electrical transformer that powered the LHC, Science News said.

“The concerned part of the LHC stopped immediately and safely, though some connections were slightly damaged due to an electrical arc,” Mr. Marsollier told Science News in an email.

The weasel did not survive, AP reported.

Authorities said they suspect that the small animal was a weasel, from the looks of the charred remains, but they are still investigating, Techworm.net reported.

“Now when we will be fully back in operation is not easy to say yet. Fixing what is due to the power cut is no big deal — may take just a few days — and on such a big machine we have to deal with this kind of repairs on a regular basis — it is part of the business. But we also have other ongoing technical activities, so at the moment, what I can say is that we will probably not have beams back until end of next week at least,” Mr. Marsollier told The Times.

The collider is considered on “standby mode,” but it is not considered to be “offline,” he said, because “it always takes at least a couple of months to restart such a big machine from scratch.”

“Standby mode for the LHC means that it is not running — so no beams, no collisions, no physics,” Mr. Marsollier said, adding that the collider is “maintained cooled down, and everything operational to restart whenever possible.”

Science News said the power has been interrupted before: “This isn’t the first time an odd event has stalled operations at the particle collider outside Geneva on the Swiss-French border. In 2009, a piece of bread (supposedly a baguette dropped by a bird or from an airplane) interrupted a power installation for an LHC cooling unit.”

CERN was founded in 1954 and is run by 21 member states.

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