Japan venture to build country’s first nuclear fusion power plant

A Japanese venture plans to build the first experimental plant in the country to generate power through nuclear fusion, the company said, with the aim of producing carbon dioxide-free energy.

Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd., a startup based in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, plans to start operations at the plant in the next five years, having already procured some of the funds for the project, CEO Taka Nagao said in a recent interview.

The experimental plant is expected to have the capacity to generate several dozen kilowatts, the company said.

Though experimental reactors aimed at showing the feasibility of nuclear-fusion-power generation exist in Japan and abroad, “a plant that actually generates power is rare,” Nagao said.

The venture, partly funded by an investment firm set up by Kyoto University, was launched in 2019 led by Nagao and Satoshi Konishi, a professor at the Institute of Advanced Energy of Kyoto University.

The company develops equipment for nuclear fusion reactors, including a key device that effectively collects heat with a temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius.

With an eye to invest several billions of yen in the project, the venture has already raised ¥1.3 billion from investment funds, including one linked to the state-backed Japan Investment Corp. It also intends to borrow funds from mega-banks such as MUFG Bank.

The venture will hold talks with the central government and municipalities in the future to work out details, including the plant’s location, it said.

Fusion power generation converts the energy created by merging nuclei into electricity. Unlike nuclear power generation, which involves fission chain reactions, the fusion process is considered safer and does not produce highly radioactive nuclear waste like nuclear power plants, experts say.

Fusion energy recently garnered much attention after U.S. startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems secured investments last year from Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates as well as Google.

The Japanese government also promotes the research and development of fusion energy as a means to secure clean energy to cope with global warming. It plans to set up an expert panel in the near future to enhance support for the move.

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  • A rendering of Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd.'s nuclear fusion plant | KYOTO FUSIONEERING / VIA KYODO