The Future is in Our Hands
Information, Awareness, Prevention / United to End Cancer

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Concerned Citizen: Why do you state that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva costs over $50 billion yet using a search engine like google, the official cost states only $13.25 Billion? Who should I believe? 

CROSETTO: The official cost of $13.25 Billion does not account for all expenses. You don’t have to believe me, there is evidence from data reported by CERN (see CERN annual report). A few additions, subtractions and divisions on data reported by CERN will convince you that the cost of the LHC is way over $13.25 Billion (Forbes states $13.25 Billion, Wikipedia states $9 Billion, CERN’s official website states $4.1 Billion for the accelerators and $1.4 Billion for the detectors).

By extracting data from CERN’s annual reports, Wikipedia, and other websites regarding their number of employees, costs, etc., it can be determined that work at the LHC was very active in 1990 onwards at the same time as the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) in Texas. There was a race to see which laboratory would finish construction first to have the better chance to discover the Higgs boson before the other.

Both stated they would have everything working by the end of 1999.


The SSC project was then cancelled in 1993 after spending $3 billion and reaching approximately 3,000 employees (I was assigned the number 894 on July 15, 1991, when I arrived).


The official dates given for spending money to build the LHC are from 1998 to 2008, but this is not credible because there was already fierce competition between CERN and SSC from 1990, and SSC had already spent $3 billion in less than 3 years, before the end of 1993. It is not realistic to think that LHC spent no money until 1998. Although CERN’s tunnel was still occupied by LEP magnets until the year 2000, the CERN AT Division began to build magnets at the same time as SSC.


A confirmation that LHC activity at CERN began before 1998 are the 3,000 pages (three volumes) of the Proceedings of the “Large Hadron Collider Workshop” held in Aachen, Germany, on October 4-9, 1990.


The first beam circulated on September 19, 2008. LHC was designed and built by approximately 10,000 people from 100 countries.


CERN’s official annual report for 2012 states a total budget for the personnel of $594.6 million. This cost for 2,512 staff employees gives an average cost per CERN employee of $236,703 (which includes Applied Physicists, Craftsmen, Engineers, Technicians and Administrative Personnel etc.). This is a 38.6% increase of the average cost per CERN employee from 2003 which was $178,300 per employee (including fringe benefits, retirement, etc.).


Of the above mentioned 10,000 people working at CERN, let’s consider the 8,500 working on the LHC project (the others are considered to work for smaller but no less important experiments). Many of them are paid by their home institute, and less than 2,500 are paid by CERN at an average cost of $120,000 per employee per year (instead of considering $236,000/employee/year) for 18 years which totals $18.36 Billion.


Considering the $10 Billion cost to build the LHC accelerator ―


Considering the $4 Billion cost to build the four experiments (CMS, ATLAS, ALICE and LHCb) from 1990 to 2008 ―


Considering the $9 Billion operating cost of the LHC ($1 Billion per year from 2008 to 2017) ―


Considering the $2 Billion upgrades of the four experiments from 2008 to 2017


Considering the personnel average cost increase of $150,000 per person per year for 10,000 employees working for LHC out of 12,500 gives a personnel cost $13.5 Billion for 9 years ―


― then the very conservative calculation for the total cost of the LHC project is $52.86 Billion.


While it is hard to refute any of the above figures for a lower cost it might be reasonable to argue them for a higher cost compared to what is calculated here.


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