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Japan frontrunner to get International Linear Collider


December 24, 2012

Artist's impression of the ILC tunnels (Graphic: Fermilab/Sandbox Studio)

Artist's impression of the ILC tunnels (Graphic: Fermilab/Sandbox Studio)

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According to Nature, Japan is the frontrunner for the planned International Linear Collider (ILC), for which Europe and the United States are also in the running to host. Scientists and engineers are already examining potential sites in the island nation for the US$7 to $8 billion machine, which is intended to complement the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The head of the global design effort for the ILC, physicist Barry Barish, presented finalized blueprints at a ceremony in Tokyo earlier this month.

Unlike the LHC located near Geneva in Switzerland, which has a ring-like shape, the ILC would be straight and 31 km (19.2 miles) long. It would house 16,000 superconducting cavities that can accelerate particles to 500 gigaelectronvolts, with the possibility of doubling that with a later upgrade. More importantly, unlike the LHC's protons (which produce unwanted debris), the ILC would collide electrons and positrons, giving scientists a clearer look at the Higgs when they collide.

Because it is a linear collider, the ILC won’t be able to collide particles with the same levels of energy possible with the LHC, whose circular shape allows particles to be run through the accelerator multiple times. But, unlike the LHC, the ILC is better able to accelerate light particles, such as electrons, which lose energy through synchrotron radiation when accelerated through circular magnetic fields.

If the ILC is built in Japan, the dangers from earthquakes and flooding would prohibit it from being build underground like the LHC, which is "technically completely different than what we were looking at," said Barish. At either of the proposed Japan locations it would have to be built above ground, and they would need to carve into a mountain to make room for it. However, Barish says, "both sites would be excellent sites for an accelerator."

Artists's rendering of the planned collider detector for the International Linear Collider...
Artists's rendering of the planned collider detector for the International Linear Collider (Graphic: KEK)

"It's either Japan or it's going to be on the shelf for a while," Barish warns. Construction could begin by the end of the decade if an agreement can be reached in the next few years. Japan has expressed interest in hosting a large-scale international project before: in 2005 they put in a bid for the US$17 billion dollar ITER fusion reactor, which they lost to France.

The ILC now enjoys strong political support in Japan, and a portion of the funds earmarked for reconstruction following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011 could be put towards the project, and the EU would likely contribute on some level to reciprocate Japanese contributions to the LHC.

Source: Linear Collider via Nature

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.   All articles by Jason Falconer

Japan? Not better now to concentrate on Solar Wind Wave Hydro Tidal Geothermal and clean, high efficiency, benign waste Thorium LFTR styled reactors, even sharing with China and Norway in this effort to rid the world of the U.S. designs from the 1950's that have already proven deadly to humanity, the U.S.S.R. Chernobyl styled reactors with the same pedigree?

Bruce Miller
25th December, 2012 @ 09:02 am PST

Could they possibly pick a location that is more geotechnically unstable? Japan. Really?

25th December, 2012 @ 10:59 am PST


I agree this makes no sense. Even if it isn't built underground earthquakes are known for causing substantial damage above ground as well. I also hope the sight they picked is at least 3 meters above sea level (you would think common sense would dictate such a thing) but apparently the world's leading nuclear experts didn't find it necessary when building the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, so I feel compelled to point this out.

Matt Fletcher
27th December, 2012 @ 01:26 am PST

i can see several things wrong with trying to build a 31 km long tube, that would have to be perfectly level and perfectly straight, on the island of Japan

1) Earthquake prone area

2) Population density

3) Mountainous terrain

4) Godzilla

27th December, 2012 @ 07:29 am PST

So...someone thinks it's a good idea to put a huge device that has the potential to create a Black Hole on the same terrain that brought us Fukushima.


R Andrew Ohge
27th December, 2012 @ 08:16 am PST

I wonder if Japans bid included a lead shield. they'll need one soon because the west side of that island has problems with 2 reactors which sit right on fault lines. but there's no way they could be that unlikely and have another quake in that region. How bout concentrating on passive nuclear power for a change. The reactor is at a safe distance and in a vacuum and if there is a technical failure at the collector side, there usually aren't any serious side effects. Let's look at that, ok?

Nathan Salter
27th December, 2012 @ 08:17 am PST

"....and a portion of the funds earmarked for reconstruction following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011 could be put towards the project"

The reason why I no longer donate money after catastrophes.

27th December, 2012 @ 08:40 am PST

Here's another case where the USA is falling behind in fundamental research. Since the Europeans built the LHC at Cern, Fermilab has just about closed down. The brightest minds are moving elsewhere. Bush wouldn't fund the LHC in the USA and now this one is going to Japan if it's built at all. But hey, we can keep spending more on war making than the rest of the world combined and act as international policeman where ever there is a problem, making it worse in most instances. Schools, health care, fundamental research, etc. All going down the tubes while the rest of the world continues to improve.

27th December, 2012 @ 11:00 am PST

Obviously politics (and not logic) are playing a VERY heavy part in the decision as to where to build the ILC. So they have to MOVE A MOUNTAIN to build it!!! How much will that add to the cost?? And what happens when there is another tsunami (and there will be)?? I don’t think building above ground will prevent tsunami damage. There are so many better places to build this!! How about in the Nevada Desert? Very flat, large no earthquakes (that I know of) & zero risk of water damage.

27th December, 2012 @ 11:26 am PST

lol. I hope they build it in the middle of busy Tokyo. Traffic and pedestrians will scratch their heads everyday about why such a long tube is in their bloody way.

Of course, building it in a disaster prone country such as Japan already gives much food for thought. Making it disaster resistant adds much to the expenses.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
28th December, 2012 @ 06:56 am PST
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