Fusion Development to Tap Japan’s Private Sector

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida receives a briefing on fusion reactors at the government’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation in June.

The government will establish a nationwide system to promote domestic nuclear fusion, which is expected to be a next-generation energy source. An industry-government-academia consultative body will be established by the end of this fiscal year to support the development of cutting-edge technologies, such as compact fusion reactors. As focus on fusion reactors is rapidly increasing overseas, the government aims to increase investment in this field in Japan’s public and private sectors.

Unlike with nuclear fission, which uses the energy generated when atomic nuclei are split, fusion harnesses the enormous energy generated when atomic nuclei, such of those of heavy hydrogen atoms, are combined together. It is also called “dream energy” because it produces neither highly radioactive waste nor carbon dioxide.

To make fusion profitable, reactor size will have to shrink and components will have to get more durable. The government aims to push the technology along by drawing private enterprises with various technologies, such as local factories and startups, into the field.

The government will also leverage the Moonshot Research and Development Program, which aims for transformative tech innovations, to encourage the early commercialization of fusion power generation.

The government’s national strategy for promoting fusion development, formulated in April, calls for the realization of fusion power generation in Japan around 2050, but the government intends to move up the target so as not to lag behind other countries.

Japanese companies possess strong tech capabilities in the field, having supplied key components to the International Thermonuclear Fusion Experimental Reactor currently under construction in France as a joint experiment by Japan, the U.S. and European and other countries. The government aims to build a supply chain by mobilizing domestic tech capabilities, as well as to expand exports of components and other products to overseas markets.