Japan sets out to build the country’s first nuclear fusion power plant
A western Japanese firm plans to build the country’s first experimental power plant to generate electricity through nuclear fusion, the company says, as the technology is attracting attention as a new way to generate power without emitting carbon dioxide.
Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd., a startup based in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, aims to start operating the plant within the next five years, having already secured part of the funds and started designing the plant, said CEO Taka Nagao to Kyodo News in a recent interview.
The experimental power plant will be equipped with a heat exchanger and a turbine in addition to a reactor that generates thermal energy to produce a small amount of electricity, with a planned production capacity of several tens of kilowatts, the company said.
The photo provided shows a rendering of the first experimental power plant in Japan to generate electricity by nuclear fusion which will be built by Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd. (Photo courtesy of Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd.)(Kyodo)
Although experimental reactors to prove the feasibility of the nuclear fusion reaction exist in Japan and abroad, “a power plant that actually generates electricity is rare even on a global scale,” Nagao said.
The venture, funded in part by an investment company set up by Kyoto University, was launched in 2019 under the leadership of Nagao and Satoshi Konishi, a professor at Kyoto University’s Institute of Advanced Energy.
The company develops equipment for nuclear fusion reactors, including a key device that efficiently collects heat at a temperature above 100 million C generated in a reactor. He plans to use the plant to collect data for his device development.
In order to invest several billion yen in the project, the company has already raised 1.3 billion yen from investment funds, including one linked to the public fund Japan Investment Corp. It also plans to borrow funds from megabanks such as MUFG Bank.
The company will hold talks with the central government and municipalities in the future to work out the details, including the plant’s construction locations, he said.
Fusion power generation converts the energy created by the fusion of nuclei into electricity. Unlike nuclear power generation which involves chain reactions of fission, the fusion process is considered safer and does not produce highly active nuclear waste like nuclear power plants, experts say.
Fusion power has recently received global attention as US nuclear fusion startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems secured investment last year from Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates as well as Google.
The Japanese government is also encouraging research and development of fusion energy as a way to ensure clean energy to deal with global warming. It plans to set up a panel of experts in the near future to strengthen support for the move.