When all the accelerators stop for the annual year-end technical stop (YETS), the accelerator operators get a well-deserved break. But this is not the case for the operators in the Technical Infrastructure section of the Operation group of the Beams department (BE-OP-TI), who are working in shifts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, monitoring CERN's infrastructures.
The Technical Infrastructure (TI) operators look after machine buildings, accelerators, experiments and other important or critical CERN facilities, like the computer centre. They monitor alarms for everything: from the incoming 400 kV electrical supply to individual circuit breakers, from the fire and gas safety, cooling and ventilation systems, to more specific installations such as the cryogenics for the experiments and the environmental systems.
The operators act as first responders and it is also their responsibility to prioritise and report faults and interventions. Not only do they monitor the infrastructure, but they also track and arrange maintenance activities on all systems.
When the accelerator complex is stopped, a huge amount of maintenance is done on all the technical infrastructure, and therefore the year-end technical stop is the busiest period of the year in the Technical Infrastructure Control Room.
As the operators are often in contact with a large number of technicians working on many different systems, and with people contacting the TI team to request repairs for malfunctioning equipment, a good measure of the activity in the Technical Infrastructure control room is the amount of phone calls. As seen in the picture below, the EYETS is very easy to detect from the amount of phone calls in that period.
During this very busy period, when many interventions are happening at the same time, breakdowns are also inevitable, and this year was no exception. On 9 March, a general power cut occurred, taking out the power supply all around CERN. The TI team coordinated the work of all the technicians intervening throughout CERN and quickly returned everything to normal. Needless to say, it was a busy day in the Technical Infrastructure control room.
When the machine is stopped, a good deal of effort also goes into upgrading all the relevant control systems and, during this period, whole new installations are commissioned. Operators will need to be trained in these new systems and tools, writing new procedures and operating the installations, with the help of the experts. Since many new or renovated installations appear after each technical stop, thus adding to the list of new alarms to configure, the number of synoptic panels in the TI control room is constantly growing.
Over the past few weeks, the accelerator complex has been getting ready to restart. The biggest challenge for the Technical Infrastructure team is now to make sure that all the systems that were undergoing maintenance are started up properly, and that all the alarms are put back into service accordingly. The team is ready for when the beam comes knocking on the door in the not-too-distant future.