The National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST) was established on 1st April, 2016. This new institute, intending to promote research and development in quantum science and technology, integrated the National Institute of Radiological Science, the Nuclear Fusion Sector and the Quantum Beam Application Sector of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. The Rokkasho Fusion Institute advances research and development for the realization of fusion energy, taking over all the tasks carried out by the Rokkasho Fusion Institute of the Nuclear Fusion Directorate of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
Fusion occurs when two light nuclei bond together, or fuse, into a more stable one; a phenomenon common and basic in the universe. The goal of fusion research is to realize fusion on the Earth and to make it the ultimate source of energy for human kind. Fusion energy has excellent characteristics: its fuels, light atoms (isotopes of hydrogen), exist almost inexhaustibly; the reaction does not runaway; its reaction product is helium, which is safe and secure and it is not a long-lived radioactive isotope. For these reasons, fusion is considered the ultimate energy for human beings and fusion research and development have been carried out since the middle of the 20th century.
Fusion energy development has already reached a stage, where reactor core conditions at around a few hundred million degrees Celsius are realized, enabling a continuous fusion reaction. The primary activity of the current fusion energy development is the construction of ITER (International Thermonuclear Fusion Experimental Reactor). ITER is an experimental reactor producing a fusion output power of 500 megawatts but no electricity is produced and its fuel is supplied from outside. ITER is being constructed in France in cooperation with seven countries and regions (Japan, Europe, U.S., Russia, Korea, China, and India). In parallel to the construction of ITER and research using ITER, research and development for DEMO (DEMOnstration Power Station, the next step to ITER) are also being carried out, where the Rokkasho Fusion Institute plays a major role. Unlike ITER, DEMO generates electricity and breeds its own fuel. We face scientific hurdles that we need to overcome: how to extract heat from a fusion reactor, how to breed fuel for the reactor, how to maintain and operate the reactor safely, etc. These are indispensable technologies for DEMO. We strive to develop these technologies so that we can smoothly start construction of a fusion DEMO reactor soon after a successful completion of research and development on ITER.
Finally yet importantly, realization of fusion energy still requires time, knowledge, new innovative technologies, and researchers and engineers who tackle these tasks. Moreover, the understanding and cooperation of local residents are essential for the success of this long-term research. You are more than welcome to visit our institute and survey the status of research and development. Your comments will be very much appreciated.