COLOGNE , February 28 - As the world's largest atom smasher prepares to restart after a two-month break, a German court has called for the German Government to convene a conference on the collider's potential risks.
After an intensive three-hour court hearing in Cologne , the Presiding Judge, Hans-Martin Niemeier, declared, "The Court has expressed its opinion that it should be possible to discuss the various safety aspects that have been the subject of the two safety reports from 2003 and 2008, within the framework of a safety conference."
The hearing featured a debate between Germany 's leading critic of the LHC, Prof. Otto E. Rössler, and two scientists representing CERN, Dr. Voss and Dr. Ringwald. CERN contended that it had proven that the Geneva-based Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is completely safe. Critics of the collider, on the other hand, pointed to flaws and contradictions in CERN's safety arguments for the possible production of black holes and exotic new forms of matter.
The Cologne Court 's pronouncement is a remarkable turn of events for the international campaign to stop the LHC. An earlier case filed in Hawaii had been dismissed by American courts on a legal technicality, and a previous request for an injunction against the LHC was turned down last year by Germany 's highest court. The Cologne Court 's statement is the first time a court has called for specific measures to be taken to investigate the collider's safety.
The Court did not, however, agree to the plaintiff's request to restrict the operation of the LHC. The Court argued that the plaintiff, Gabriele Schröter, a German citizen residing in Switzerland , had presented dangers which were still only theoretical.
The plaintiff's attorney, Olaf Möhring, responded that, "This reasoning is not convincing at all since, in this very case, the safety reports themselves also rely on mere theories."
Möhring further pointed out that CERN's main argument comparing the LHC's experimental conditions with naturally occurring cosmic ray collisions was deeply flawed. He noted that, "Differences between the two are so obvious that even a layman could detect them," and called for the Court to enforce the "precautionary principle". Möhring stated that they are planning on appealing the Court's legal ruling.
Nevertheless, the plaintiffs were encouraged by the Court's recommendations. Möhring said that, "The Court has given a strong new signal that cannot be ignored by the German Government or even CERN."