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SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's science ministry on Wednesday tapped Naju and Cheongju as the candidate cities for the country's next-generation synchrotron radiation accelerator, which will be a key facility for cutting-edge research efforts going forward.
Naju in South Jeolla Province, 355 kilometers south of Seoul, and North Chungcheong Province's Cheongju, 137 kilometers southeast of the capital city, made bids to host the facility along with Chuncheon in Gangwon Province and North Gyeongsang Province's Pohang, the Ministry of Science and ICT said.
It said officials and experts carefully reviewed presentations made by all cities and checked their feasibility claims earlier in the day before the selection was made for the project set to receive 1 trillion won (US$816 million) in state funds.
"Naju and Cheongju were deemed as being the most appropriate locations for the accelerator," the ministry said.
Naju stressed that hosting the accelerator will contribute to balanced national growth, with leading research schools such as Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology expected to contribute to future research.
It pointed out that the city is located right next to Gwangju, a major urban center of 1.5 million people, and that the proposed site for the accelerator is on very stable granite bedrock that is mostly flat, which could help reduce construction costs.
Cheongju highlighted its central location in the country and its excellent transportation infrastructure as well as its relative proximity to Daedeok Innopolis, with its abundant human resources and easy access to top technical universities.
The city claimed it is ahead of the competition in terms of future growth potential, and it pointed out that related administrative procedures to build the facility have already been dealt with, so there is no risk of delay. It said that once the accelerator is built, the city will invite companies and laboratories, which would be a great boon to the local economy.
The ministry said on-site inspections to check the cities will be conducted on Thursday, with the winner to be announced on Friday.
The accelerator facility will harness electrons moving at extremely high speeds to create energy and X-ray beams that can be used to check and analyze superfine materials. This process can be used in the development of new advanced materials, displays and semiconductors; fuel growth in biotech and life sciences; and have far reaching industrial and scientific applications.
Regional governments and public thinks tanks have estimated that hosting the accelerator could have a production inducement effect reaching trillions of won and lead to employment opportunities for well over 100,000 people during the duration of construction and its operations.
This has caused regional governments to compete with each other and align themselves with schools and laboratories to emphasize their qualifications.
The country already has third- and fourth-generation accelerators in Pohang in the country's southeastern region, but there have been growing calls for a more up-to-date facility to meet growing demand.
Once a city is announced, the science ministry said preliminary feasibility studies will be conducted within the year, with the project set to kick off in 2022 at the latest.
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