The European Union’s Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson has signed a joint declaration with Japan on collaboration in the field of fusion energy.
Simson signed the pact on behalf of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), alongside Kazuo Kodama, Japan’s ambassador to the EU.
The EU is a key player in the ITER project, which is under construction in Cadarache, France, and is an attempt to build the world’s biggest nuclear fusion machine.
The Japanese deal with consist of three projects, all located in Japan, including the Satellite Tokamak Project, or JT-60SA, said to be the largest, most advanced tokamak in the world.
Located in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, its powerful heating systems are able to inject targeted microwave energy and high-energy particles into plasma. JT-60SA should reach plasma temperatures comparable to those that will be found in ITER and it also resembles ITER in its use of superconducting magnets, which will confine and control the plasma, and the liquid helium cooling system that will cool them to -269 °C.
The major difference between the two machines is in their size: at around 12m across, JT-60SA is about half the size of ITER.
As the tokamak closest in design to ITER, JT-60SA will perform modelling to help scientists prepare as much as possible for the beginning of its operation. Once ITER is running, however, the focus of JT-60SA’s research is likely to shift towards preparation for the following generation of fusion reactors focusing on the demonstration and optimisation of steady-state operation of advanced plasma configurations.
In a statement, the European Commission said that fusion “has the potential to provide a safe, cost-efficient and sustainable solution to European and global energy needs”.
It added that the Europe-Japan deal “represents a highly successful collaboration between two major players in the global landscape of fusion research. Europe and Japan have taken stock of the progress made so far and reaffirmed their commitment to continuing their joint activities.”
The EC said that “transitioning to a decarbonized, climate-friendly society is one of the key challenges of modern times. A major component is the creation of a diverse, secure and climate-friendly energy mix. Fusion research aims to help reach this goal by developing the promising technology of fusion energy as a clean, safe power source for the future.”