Energy crisis squeezes science at CERN and other major facilities

Read the full story in Nature.

As energy prices spike as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, possibly causing a global economic downturn and stoking fears of rolling blackouts — especially in Europe — science laboratories are not being spared. The situation has raised particular alarm at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab outside Geneva, Switzerland, which already has massive energy bills in normal years.

On 26 September, CERN’s governing council agreed to significantly reduce the facility’s energy consumption in 2022 and 2023, after Électricité de France (EDF), a French electricity supplier, asked the lab to decrease the load on its network. The council decided to bring forward the lab’s annual year-end technical stop by two weeks, to 28 November, and to reduce operations by 20% in 2023 — which will be accomplished mostly by shutting down four weeks early next year, in mid-November. Operations will resume as planned at the end of February, in both 2023 and 2024.

CERN has also developed plans with EDF for reduced power configurations, in case energy use needs to be limited further in the coming months. Smaller measures are being taken to reduce overall energy use on the CERN campus, including switching off street lighting at night and delaying the start of building heating by one week.

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