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Blog

Accelerator complex officially opens

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Shoji Nagamiya, director of J-PARC, outlines the accelerator complex

By Michael Banks

Imagine having a world-leading neutron and muon source, a particle accelerator capable of boosting protons to 50 GeV, and a neutrino facility all on one site.

Well, you don’t have to any longer, as this is exactly what the $1.5bn J-PARC accelerator complex in Tokai, 100 km north of Tokyo, has to offer.

Today, physicists from around the world, myself included, met in Tokyo to celebrate the opening of the J-PARC accelerator complex after 12 years of construction.

The main aspects of J-PARC revolve around its 3 and 50 GeV synchrotrons. The 3 GeV synchrotron ramps up a beam of protons to smash them into a mercury target producing copious amounts of neutrons and muons that are then used in a range of experiments in biology to condensed-matter physics.

Meanwhile, the 50 GeV synchrotron, which is currently only operating at 30 GeV, accelerates protons before smashing them into a graphite target to produce kaons and neutrinos.

The inauguration held at the Kudan Kaikan centre in central Tokyo was attended by around 1000 scientists.

First to speak was Shoji Nagamiya, director of J-PARC, who has been with the project since its inception in 1999.

Unfortunately, during my few days in Tokyo I haven’t yet picked up the language, so I didn’t understand most of his or the other talks as they were given in Japanese.

After Nagamiya came a roster of dignitaries to the stage to offer their congratulations for the completion of J-PARC. These included the Japanese science minister, Ryu Shionoya, as well as Akito Arima, the former Japanese education minister and Masaru Hashimoto, governor of the Ibaraki prefecture, where J-PARC is based.

Next up was Makoto Kobayashi from the KEK lab, who shared the 2008 Nobel Prize with Yoichiro Nambu from the University of Chicago and Toshihide Maskawa from Kyoto University. Kobayashi gave a brief lecture about the new science that J-PARC hopes to unveil.

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Steve Koonin gives a recorded message of congratulations

Steve Koonin, under secretary for science at the US Department of Energy also give a brief recorded message (in English) of congratulations saying that J-PARC represented “another great venture in Japanese science”.

After the talks had finished, scientists from other countries who helped to build J-PARC were named and invited to the stage.

Then Nagamiya flashed a slide up saying that any foreigner in attendance should come to the stage.

I couldn’t really hide away and was duly encouraged to go on the stage along with some other members from the audience.

I felt somewhat embarrassed to be applauded by over 500 Japanese scientists, but it was a nice touch to the event.

However, it was not all about talks and being red-faced on stage and after the talks a lavish banquet was put on with sushi and sashimi.

After the inauguration I caught up with Nagamiya, who said it was not always easy to build such a big lab that was a partnership between the KEK lab and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. “Now I feel confident about the project,” says Nagamiya, “but when I started I was less confident. What is especially pleasing is that the world is leaning towards new neutron and neutrino facilities, so we are setting the trends.”

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