Delay hits 1bn particle collider: Nuclear accelerator beset by cost-cutting

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The Independent Online
BRITISH and German cost- cutting attempts yesterday stalled the expected go-ahead for a gigantic pounds 1bn atom- smashing machine to unlock the secrets of matter.

Europe's plans to build the world's largest nuclear accelerator are now on hold until the council of Cern (Europe's particle physics research organisation) meets again in July.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest, and most complex, collaborative project science has ever seen. At yesterday's meeting in Geneva, 17 of the 19 council members voted for the project to proceed - with construction beginning between 2002 and 2004.

The aim is for the LHC to re-create conditions when the universe was born with a bang 15 billion years ago.

Britain and Germany are concerned over the number of votes needed to veto the figure that sets year-on-year increases in payments, linked to inflation. They want each state to have the right to veto the project. CERN's president said yesterday that there were no major obstacles to final approval, which is now anticipated at the next meeting.

The collider would be a 16- mile circular tunnel built on the Franco-Swiss border. It is designed to accelerate sub atomic particles called protons at almost the speed of light using huge supercooled, superconducting magnets to guide the particles into head- on collisions.

Yesterday's delay could tarnish the image of the project, whose co-ordinators are hoping to win US financial backing for the scheme.