ILC listed in SCJ’s Master Plan, but not on the high-priority list – Deliberations on the ILC move to MEXT

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (January 31st edition). Read the original here.

(Reporting by the Tokyo Bureau)

On January 30, The Science Council of Japan (SCJ) released their Master Plan, a list of large-scale research projects for 2020 and beyond. One focal project, the International Linear Collider (ILC), was placed in the Master Plan’s list of “Large-Scale Research Projects,” but was not listed in the high-priority “Important Large-Scale Research Projects” list. However, this has ensured the ability to apply to get the ILC into the Ministry of Science (MEXT)’s “Road Map for Promoting Large-Scale Academic Research Projects,” so deliberations will continue onto the next step.

The SCJ held their director’s meeting in Tokyo on January 30 where they approved the plan. From 165 applications, they selected 161 (including the ILC) to be on the list of Large-Scale Research Projects. Of that list, they selected 31 projects of particularly high priority to be placed on the “Important Large-Scale Research Projects” list so they would be promoted swiftly. The ILC was not on that list, but was selected as one of 59 candidates for further hearings, a step before being put on the important projects list.

Projects within the “Important Large-Scale Research Projects” require a degree of maturation and an evaluation including academic significance, societal value, urgency, and budget plans. Fujii Ryoichi, chair of the SCJ Working Group for Research Project/Research Capital Deliberation spoke to researchers on the 30th. “During the hearings for the ILC, we particularly debated about the project’s scientific significance and whether or not it would come to fruition. During that, we compared and evaluated it against the significance of other projects in a number of fields.”

MEXT will aim to create its Road Map (which is required for budgetary measures) by summer 2020. In order to apply to become part of the Road Map, projects need to be candidates for further hearings (the step before becoming an important large-scale project.) The ILC cleared that hurdle.

Higuchi Shinichi, director of MEXT’s Particle Physics and Nuclear Physics Research Promotion Office explained, “We take the SCJ’s Master Plan into account when we deliberate on our Road Map, but we do not have any sort of conclusion at this juncture.” Taking into account the fact that the national government stated it had an interest in the ILC in March 2019, he said, “There is no change to the fact that we are watching how the Road Map and European deliberations work out.”

Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK in Tsukuba, Ibaraki) applied to get the ILC in the Master Plan. On January 30th, Director Okada Yasuhiro said to reporters, “This shows that the Japanese scientific community deeply understands the significance of building the ILC, and is a great leap forward.”

His understanding was that “to realize the ILC, we need intergovernmental negotiations on international cost-sharing of ILC construction costs as well as further preparation by scientists, but we expect a positive stance on the project from the Japanese government.”

(below: from the print version only)

About the ILC

An international project trying to understand the mysteries of the universe’s origins, the ILC will be a linear collider built in a tunnel around 100 meters underground at a 20 km length in its initial stage. The accelerator will create a high energy state by smashing subatomic particles (electrons and positrons) at a speed close to the speed of light to study unknown matter and mechanisms. MEXT’s Panel of Experts estimated construction costs at 735.5 to 803.3 billion yen. The Kitakami mountains of Iwate and Miyagi prefectures have been selected as the candidate site, and should Japan decide to host the ILC, the ILC may start operations as soon as 2032 after preparations finish.

Proceeding to the next stage – Tasso Takuya, Governor of Iwate

“I expect that the ILC project will continue to move to the next stage. As the candidate site, Iwate Prefecture will continue to work closely with all related parties to prepare to receive the ILC and improve understanding of the project (around Japan and the rest of the world.)”

The Tohoku region, working as one – Murai Yoshihiro, Governor of Miyagi

“The ILC project has been selected as an Academic Large-Scale Research Project, and I expect that things will continue to the next step. We will continue to work closely with all related parties, to join together the Tohoku region and work to realize the ILC.”