A word from the DG: The home straight

On 14 July 1989, the first beam was injected into CERN’s new flagship particle accelerator, LEP, with first collisions coming one month later. Could history be about to repeat itself? As I write this, Sector 5-6 of the LHC has been cooled down, and the sectors between point 1 and point 7 are cooling. Up to now, two sectors have been cooled and warmed up again, but for all the others, the cool-down is definitive.

The cool-down schedule, which I am confident we can keep, foresees the entire LHC being cold by the middle of June, allowing the first beams to be injected soon after. First collisions will follow two months later.

During the commissioning of Sector 4-5 earlier this year, three dipoles quenched below 9.5kA, despite having previously been tested to the nominal LHC operating current of 12kA. It seems that some re-training of some of the magnets will be necessary, which will take a few more weeks. After agreement with all the experiments and having informed the Council at the March session, it was decided to push for collisions at an energy of 10 TeV this year, as quickly as possible, with full commissioning to 14 TeV to follow over the winter shutdown.

Commissioning to 10 TeV should be fast, no quench being anticipated, giving us confidence that the experiments will be recording data at record high energies by the summer.

In 1989, it was only a matter of weeks before LEP produced its first profound result – a measurement of the number of light neutrino families. In this respect at least, history will not be repeating itself. The LHC is a discovery machine, and the discoveries it is chasing will require a little more patience.

Robert Aymar