2020 to be an important year for the ILC effort

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (January 6th edition). Read the original here.

The International Linear Collider project is entering an important phase in 2020. The central government of Japan is currently deliberating on the project, and is paying attention to the Science Council of Japan, which will release its master plan for Japanese science projects at the end of January. The next European strategy for particle physics is scheduled to be established in May of this year. Additionally, the USA has selected its next ambassador to Japan – an ILC-supporting director of a think tank with the ear of the Trump administration. The situation may greatly change domestically and internationally, so ILC-related parties are working to strengthen their efforts to bring about the project.

December 27, 2019, in Tokyo- Film director Oshii Mamoru, anime director Kobayashi Osamu, and novelist/editor Yamashita Takashi gathered at an ILC Supporters event to say that the ILC would be a symbol that would drive children to want to learn about science. The event was held in hopes of boosting enthusiasm for the ILC in a number of different fields for the new year.

In March 2019, the central Japanese government gave its thoughts on the ILC for the very first time at a meeting of the International Committee for Future Accelerators in Tokyo. While they stated that they were not at a point where they could voice their intentions on the ILC at this time, they also said that they had an interest in the project. Deliberations are in full swing.

The Science Council of Japan’s Master Plan will have a great impact on the process of making a decision on the ILC. Within the plan, the SCJ lists research projects that it deems to be highly scientifically significant. According to those involved with the ILC, while the plan will only select about 20 projects from a number of submissions, currently, the ILC is on a short list of about 60 projects that are being currently deliberated. It seems that the ILC will be in the final master plan in some form or another.

Regarding the next European particle physics strategy (2020-2024), a draft meeting will be held in Germany on January 20th. After that, the plan will be passed through a directors meeting at CERN, and submitted to various cabinets within the EU in May. The central government will closely look at where the ILC is positioned within that strategy.

One of the hurdles of the ILC project is its initial construction costs (over 1 trillion yen), and its yearly operating costs. The Japanese government has been conducting joint research with the USA in reducing the costs of advanced accelerators, and will begin working with Germany and France as well in the 2020 fiscal year. Inter-governmental negotiations will need to be held on sharing costs internationally.

In this important phase, the USA has selected Mr. Kenneth Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, as its new ambassador to Japan. This think tank has influence within the Trump administration, and Mr. Weinstein has also served as a go-between for Japanese parliament and US Congress on matters related to the ILC. Where this goes will be closely watched.

If these domestic and international parties deem the ILC to be significant in a broad number of ways, then the next and last step will be a government decision taking into account the benefits the ILC might have for the nation. Hon. Shunichi Suzuki, vice-chair of the non-partisan Federation of Diet Members for the ILC (House of Representatives, Iwate 2nd district) said about the next ambassador, “As the USA holds one of the keys to the ILC, their next ambassador is truly important.” He vowed, “This is an important year for the ILC. We have carried out so many initiatives and calls on the national government thus far, and those will be carried out in an even more intense manner.”