Hosting the ILC will “open up the country from a rural area” – Dr. Atsuto Suzuki

The original article was published in the Nikkei via Iwate Nippo.

Vol. 13 of “Plans from the Tohoku people” – Researcher Edition
[The ILC will be] used by industry, a source of dreams for young people

Iwate Prefectural University President, Dr. Atsuto Suzuki (69)
Born in Niigata City in 1946, Suzuki received his doctorate from the graduate school at Tohoku University. He became faculty head of science and then vice president at Tohoku University, and later, director of KEK. In 2015, he became president of Iwate Prefectural University.

The International Linear Collider (ILC) is a next-generation particle accelerator that could solve the mysteries of the birth of the universe. As a large-scale international project, the ILC will be built with cooperation from researchers from around the world. The Kitakami mountains (Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures) were selected as the Japanese candidate site in 2013, but the Japanese national government has not made an official decision on the project. Iwate Prefectural University President Dr. Atsuto Suzuki says the ILC will open up the country from a rural area, and is doing all he can to realize the project.

The ILC will be built 100 meters underground* in a tunnel 31 kilometers long. Electrons and positrons will be beamed from each end to collide head-on at [close to] the speed of light. This will simulate conditions following the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe, and the results will be precisely recorded. The ILC will be used to learn more about the properties of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle that gives mass to matter. Some think that the ILC will also discover supersymmetry particles, which thus far have only been theorized about.

The goals of the ILC won’t just serve the field of science. Suzuki envisions the ILC being a place “unlike any in the world, and a new way to develop Japan” through the accumulation of international scientific institutions around the site. It will create an international region that utilizes Japan’s special flair. Over 10,000 researchers and their families will arrive in the area, and they won’t just be living in one place. We could aim to invigorate local communities by having researchers live in unoccupied houses spread throughout the region.

There are also great expectations that accelerator science will be used by other industries. ILC technology could be used in transportation, healthcare, new materials, communications, the environment, and many other fields. Local small-to-medium-sized businesses can cooperate to form a large industrial base, and young people will no longer need to go to Tokyo to find work. Scientists are also improving on energy efficiency in hopes of operating the ILC with natural energy.

Iwate is full of wonderful things, from its bountiful nature, its hot springs, and its delicious food. Once people know that, they’ll come from around the world to visit and even live in the area. The region could overcome its population decline and even see population growth.

Suzuki studied under Dr. Masatoshi Koshiba, the Nobel Prize-winning professor emeritus at Tokyo University. A world-renowned elementary particle physicist, Suzuki was the first to detect neutrinos emanating within the planet. He is now trying to push forth the ILC because of his worries about Japan’s future. “Can Japan really continue like this?”

Japan cannot supply its own food or energy. Its talented workers leave for other countries. ”I think the Japanese people have lost their confidence.” If the ILC is realized, Japan will lead the world in physics for the next 50-100 years, and be able to contribute.

In June, Suzuki was appointed director of the Tohoku ILC Preparation Office installed within the Tohoku ILC Promotion Council. The national government’s decision on whether or not to host the ILC will be made by 2018, and Suzuki aims to fully prepare the area to accept the project by that time. He will also be involved with preliminary calculations on the financial responsibilities of the region, preparing a place where local companies can learn about how to get involved with the accelerator industry, and also increasing fans of the ILC in Japan.

Construction and operations of the ILC will range over a span of 30 years, with the total cost equaling around 2 trillion yen. Half of that cost will be borne by Japan. However, ripple effects on the economy will result a gain of 4.3 trillion yen. For Japan’s future, would that investment really be too high?

-From the reporter-
Head of the Morioka branch office – Ryuichi Toyoda

President Suzuki says, “As we develop the communities around the ILC, we must work with the residents of the area or we won’t last long.” The research zone surrounding Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture has been around for about 20 years. Because schools and shopping centers were created from scratch, he says it was difficult for researchers to interact with the local people.

After the local governments created their plans, there were often things that invited backlash from the local people. Perhaps the governments thought that they knew best on the subject, but because of that attitude some towns failed in their efforts. This time with the ILC, we will see development on a national level that has never been done before. I suggest that they take on projects that will require new ways of thinking. I’d like them to be flexible.
*Translator’s note: The original Japanese says 100m underground, but that is an oversimplification. The ILC will be built in a tunnel at an elevation of 100 meters, underground in the mountains. At certain points it will be closer to the surface than others.