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[cdn-nucl-l] Report: Japan Neutrino Reactor in Doubt
Posted in Yahoo News on October 18, 2003 and at:
Report: Japan Neutrino Reactor in Doubt
Sat Oct 18, 8:48 AM ET Add Science - AP to My Yahoo!
By KENJI HALL, Associated Press Writer
TOKYO - A recommendation by a government panel not to fund an advanced
physics research facility has drawn an angry outburst from a Japanese Nobel
laureate and left the project's fate in doubt, media reports said Saturday.
The project, which calls for a state-of-the-art, $1.8 billion facility in
eastern Japan, is the brainchild of Masatoshi Koshiba, an astrophysicist who
won the 2002 Nobel Prize for his work on subatomic particles called
neutrinos. Koshiba has sought the government's support, saying the facility
would give Japan an edge over U.S. and European researchers.
But the Council for Science and Technology Policy - headed by Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi - ranked the facility as the lowest priority for
government spending next year, saying the price tag was hard to justify.
"Because existing facilities can be used to run neutrino experiments, we
have doubts about justifying such a big expense," the council's report said,
according to the national Yomiuri newspaper and other major dailies on
Instead, energy projects such as a prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor
should come first, the council said.
Exasperated, Koshiba called the decision "foolish."
"Our research can't be done in existing facilities. That's why there are
plans to build a new one," Koshiba, a professor emeritus at Tokyo
University, said, according to the paper. "Scientists all over the world
would laugh at the council's decision."
Koshiba said he has arranged to address the council on Tuesday, and is
expected to push for construction to begin next year, as planned, in
Tokaimura, about 70 miles northeast of Tokyo.
Among the most obscure particles and waves in nature, neutrinos are
sometimes called the ghosts of the universe because they have little or no
mass, no electrical charge and tend not to interact with other matter. They
stream from the sun and other stars.
Researchers believe there are so many of them - trillions pass through our
bodies each second we stand in sunlight - that knowing more about them would
expand our understanding of the universe.
Using a neutrino detector, dubbed the Super-Kamiokande, Koshiba discovered
neutrinos coming from distant supernova explosions. The chamber, the world's
largest of its kind, sits inside an abandoned copper mine beneath a mountain
in Kamioka, about 170 miles west of Japan's capital.
If the new facility is built, researchers could shoot a beam of manmade
neutrinos to the Super-Kamiokande. By comparing the beam leaving the
Tokaimura facility with the one that reaches the Super-Kamiokande, they
could determine how neutrinos behave.