Recently, an international committee of scientists approved a new plan for the International Linear Collider (candidate site: Kitakami mountains of Iwate & Miyagi prefectures) that would shorten its initial length from 31 km to 20 km. This would reduce construction costs by 40%, and now the focus is on the Japanese national government to make a decision on hosting the ILC in 2018. We sat down with the director of the Tohoku ILC Planning Office, Atsuto Suzuki (also President of Iwate Prefectural University) to ask about further developments in the project. (Reporting by Tetsuo Takahashi of the Reporting Department and Sawako Katayama of the Tokyo branch)
Past the Standard Model?
―The International Committee for Future Accelerators decided in November to shorten the ILC to 20km.
“At around 830 billion yen, the construction costs for the accelerator itself were a looming problem. We are able to cut that down to around 500 billion yen. If half of that is borne by the host country, that calculates out to a Japanese responsibility of 20-30 billion yen per year for 10 years. We would use the existing budget for elementary particle research, so it is much more likely now that the ILC will become a reality.”
―What will the effect be on the research?
“In 2012, CERN discovered the Higgs particle, which gives mass to all matter. The scientific significance of a 20km ILC is that it can precisely measure the Higgs. Through that research, if we can find out what the Higgs is and what it does, that will be a breakthrough to theories that will go past the Standard Model.”
“Research on the Higgs will also bring us closer to a discovery regarding dark matter, a collection of matter in the universe that we still don’t understand. Even with this new ILC plan, the intention is to eventually lengthen the accelerator, ensuring the potential for the ILC to research a number of other things.”
A road to development for the region
―The Japanese national government still hasn’t indicated whether it will construct the ILC.
“Members of the Federation of Diet Members for the ILC spoke to Prime Minister Abe about the new ILC plan in September. He ordered the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to properly respond to the new plan. Europe will begin planning for its next 5 year strategy in particle physics starting in August 2018, so that is the deadline for Japan’s decision. The Diet members will begin serious talks with Europe around the beginning of 2018 regarding negotiations (on the ILC). In any case, I want the national government to make its decision in 2018.”
―The Tohoku ILC Planning Office is moving forward with its deliberations on preparing for the ILC and the influx of foreign researchers.
“This will be a wonderful opportunity for Iwate and Miyagi to link up with the rest of the world, and to develop themselves. The Planning Office is in the middle of creating a town development master plan which we will release shortly. It is crucial that the national government approves the creation of a special zone for innovation so we can develop a high-quality research environment and surrounding region, so in the beginning of 2018 I’d like to talk to both Iwate and Miyagi about that.”