Four years since Kitakami was selected as the ILC candidate site, negotiations taking place at central gov’t and abroad – Local gov’ts concentrate on steady PR efforts

The original article was published in the Tanko Nichinichi (August 24th edition). Read the original here.

It has now been more than 4 years since the Kitakami mountains were selected as the candidate site for the International Linear Collider, an international particle physics research facility. Over these 4 years, a wide variety of initiatives have been pushed forth, including the creation of a vision for community development (around the ILC), seminars for getting involved with ILC-related industry, and programs focused on creating a more diverse and multicultural society. This year is being positioned as “do-or-die” time for realizing the ILC, but the important negotiations are taking place at international researcher groups and at MEXT’s Panel of Experts. Oshu City and other local governments and actors may not be able to get directly involved with these negotiations, but they are carefully watching how the situation develops while also giving seminars at local schools and publicizing the project. (By Naoto Kodama)

The ILC will be the only international research facility of its kind in the world, built to unlock the mysteries behind the creation of mass and the universe. According to the project schedule, it is predicted that the ILC will start operations sometime from the late 2020s to early 2030s.

On August 23, 2013, the ILC Site Evaluation Committee, made up of Japanese researchers, released their evaluation that the Kitakami mountains should be the candidate site. It may have been a decision by researchers, and not the central government, but for all practical purposes this meant that there was now one candidate site in the world for the ILC.

Currently, the Panel of Expert set up by the Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology (MEXT), is looking into what issues need to be solved before Japan can host the project.

As for the scientific community, on August 9th, the International Committee for Future Colliders (ICFA) and the Linear Collider Board (LCB) held a meeting in Guangzhao, China. There, they deliberated on the staging of the ILC, where they would build the ILC on a smaller scale at first, and lengthen it in stages.

Officials from Iwate Prefecture and the Tohoku region expected that they would approve the staging strategy at this meeting. However, in actuality, they only made a move to support the staging strategy, and will give an official announcement at the ICFA meeting in Canada in November.

This month, the Tohoku ILC Preparation Office was due to release its approach for developing the region to receive the ILC, and the Iwate Prefecture ILC Promotion Council was planned to release its report on economic effects of the ILC. However, they are now expected to be released after the ICFA meeting in November. Officials at both organizations were in agreement that, “Our deliberations have to be connected to the staging strategy. We’d like to wait until after the formal announcement (to release our own reports).”

MEXT’s Panel of Experts is also waiting on that formal announcement before it will make its next move. MEXT’s Office of Elementary Particle Physics and Nuclear Physics Research, which also serves as a headquarters for the Panel of Experts, said, “The parameters of the project that we have based our deliberations on thus far may change. We won’t be able to decide our further direction or set up meetings until after the ICFA releases its results in November.”

The central push for the ILC is happening abroad and at the central government, and the local governments surrounding the candidate site can only watch as the situation develops. However, they are doing what they can, including pouring their efforts into publicizing the project. The Tohoku ILC Promotion Council set up a PR booth at the VACUUM 2017 expo in Yokohama in September, and special seminars are also planned.

Oshu City is also continuing to hold seminars for local schools and educating the populace on the ILC by setting up PR spaces at events. Oshu’s ILC Promotion Office Director Chida said, “As we do all we can do as a local government, we want to see how the national government and scientific community move forward.”