Power outage shows strength of Tevatron team
An anchor-shaped bracket connects the electric lines to the Pi-shaped power poles north of Wilson Hall. A metal pin on one of the anchor-shaped brackets became loose, causing a static line that serves as a lightning rod to fall and hit the insulator and power lines. The ensuing arc of electricity triggered a shut down of the master power station. (Click to see larger image)
When most of Fermilab went dark Wednesday, non-essential support staff went
home, but many engineers, technicians and physicists picked up flashlights
and buckled down for work.
Instead of their normal jobs--running the cutting-edge machinery in an
international race to discovery--the men and women were switching to the
role of a high-tech pit crew: inspecting and returning to life the
highest-energy particle accelerator currently operating.
At 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, a power arc at a power line on site had brought
Fermilab's accelerator complex and its key component the Tevatron--a 4-mile
particle raceway--to a standstill. Two nearly 6,000-ton particle detectors
reading data from an average of 2.5 million proton-antiproton collisions a
second ground to a halt as the engine powering bunches of particles racing
toward them silenced.
The outage wasn't a monumental problem. Outages of up to a few seconds occur
several times a year. Outages of up to 10 minutes occur occasionally. They
cause little concern because the temperature of the superconducting magnets
in the Tevatron particle collider rises slowly.
But an outage of an hour, which occurs only once every one or two years,
creates some challenges. Such outages push the system past a temperature
threshold that usually requires a day or two of downtime. It's a speed bump,
but it's also a chance to test how well the divisions of the laboratory work