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Japan Steps Up Efforts To Build Nuclear Fusion Reactor

The Japanese government is in discussions to shorten the timeline for building a prototype nuclear fusion reactor in the country, Bloomberg has reported, citing Japanese media.

According to the report, the project could be added to Japan’s national strategy next month.

Japan has been working on fusion at the JT-60SA—a massive device for nuclear fusion experimentation, which is planned to start in March. Hopes are running high after encouraging news from the U.S., where scientists reported they had succeeded in using fusion to produce more energy than was required for the fusion itself.

Because of the growing attention nuclear fusion is getting around the world, investment in the technology is booming. In the 12 months to mid-2022, fusion attracted some $2.8 billion in investments, compared with some $2 billion for the previous decade in total.

According to Bloomberg estimates, the nuclear fusion market globally could grow to a size of $40 trillion but it does not look like that this will happen anytime soon. Despite the reports of breakthroughs in the U.S., China, and elsewhere, skeptics are quick to point out that replicating results from the lab is often tricky and takes a long time.

The promise of fusion is particularly topical for resource-poor Japan, which is one of the largest energy importers globally. The recent squeeze in natural gas highlighted the drawbacks of this dependence on foreign suppliers. This dependence has seen Japan reconsider its energy strategy, although its stance on nuclear fission is perhaps more notable than this recent interest in nuclear fusion.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently called for extending the lives of operating nuclear fission reactors and the construction of next-generation ones. By leaning more heavily on nuclear, both fission and fusion, Japan will hope to advance its net-zero ambitions and boost its energy security.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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