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Japan Picks Tohoku Site for International Linear Collider

23 August 2013 12:30 pm
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Preferred site. A Japanese panel says a good place to put the proposed International Linear Collider would be in a tunnel through the Kitakami Mountains in Iwate Prefecture.

A Japanese committee today recommended a site in Japan's Tohoku region for the International Linear Collider (ILC) -- if the country ends up hosting the facility, which could cost $10 billion.

The ILC is expected to pick up where Europe's Large Hadron Collider leaves off in studies of the Higgs boson and other exotic particles. Physicists in North America, Europe, and Japan agree on the need for the collider and have collaborated in the design stage. Each region would like to host the ILC, but Japan has emerged as the most ardent suitor. It is not clear, however, how the machine will be paid for.

In 2010, Japan's site evaluation committee narrowed the list of candidate sites down to two: one on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands; and the Tohoku site, which would have the collider’s 31-kilometer-long tunnel bored through the Kitakami Mountains. The evaluation committee judged the Kitakami site preferable because of geologic conditions, local infrastructure, and the possibility of making an international scientific community feel at home.

Those backing the Kitakami site are also hoping that some of the billions appropriated by the Japanese government for reconstruction after the 2011 tsunami might be steered to the ILC. Most of Kitakami tunnel would be in Iwate Prefecture, whose coast was battered by the tsunami.

But the decision on how to spend reconstruction money will be up to the politicians, warns Satoru Yamashita, a University of Tokyo physicist who chairs Japan's ILC Strategy Council. And despite Japanese enthusiasm for the project, Yamashita told ScienceInsider that Japan is not going ahead on its own. "It is the ‘international’ linear collider," he says. Only after establishing international partnerships will Japan's government "officially decide to 'go,' " he says.