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"Big Bang" collider repairs to cost up to $29 million
09 December 2008 09:50 am
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Repairing the giant particle collider built to simulate the "Big Bang" could cost up to 35 million Swiss francs ($29 million), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said.

Announcing a further delay to the Large Hadron Collider's resumption, now expected in summer, CERN spokesman James Gillies said repairs will cost 15 million Swiss francs, and spare parts would cost another 10-20 million Swiss francs.

The massive collider, the largest and most complex machine ever made, has already cost 10 billion Swiss francs to build, supported by CERN's 20 European member states and other nations including the United States and Russia.

"We will not be going to our member states asking for more money, we will deal with it within the current CERN budget," Gillies said.

The collider was designed to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang, believed by most cosmologists to have created the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

It sends beams of sub-atomic particles to smash into each other at nearly the speed of light. Physicists plan to look at the results of those explosions for new or previously unseen particles that could unlock more secrets of science.

Scientists started it up with great fanfare in September, firing beams of proton particles around its 27-km (17-mile) underground tunnel. But nine days later they were forced to shut it down when an electrical fault caused a helium leak.

Gillies said that helium leak caused "quite considerable mechanical damage to the accelerator."

Repairing it will require 53 of the 57 magnets in the collider's tunnel, buried under the Swiss-French border near Geneva, to be removed and then re-installed.

Some 28 have already come out, and all the magnets should be back in place by the end of March, Gillies said. CERN now expects the machine to be powered up again for tests by June, after which particle beams can be sent around again.

"We don't have a precise date for it yet," the spokesman said. CERN had originally said the machine would be restarted in the spring.