NIFS

Greetings from the Director General

Towards a new era of fusion science

The National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS) is facing a transition phase toward the “post LHD” era. As Director, I will work with all members of the institute to organize the new NIFS as a lighthouse that illuminates the direction of fusion science in the choppy academic waters ahead.

Fusion science is a configuration of many different challenges. The road to fusion power is purgatorial, which is much more arduous than prospects envisaged made at the beginning (mid-20th century). However, it is not necessarily unfortunate that we encounter unexpected challenges. As many great researchers tell, that discovery was born from failure, new truth exists outside the range that one can predict. Fusion energy is a steep peak for development researchers to climb, but it is also a treasure trove for academic researchers. The task of the academic researcher is to deploy new knowledge from the ingress of difficult problems.

In the challenge of fusion science, we first have to cast “difficult problems” into “well-posed problems”. Here, a “well-posed problem” is a research target that leads to a general principle having a wide range of useful application.

So far, fusion science has focused on "numerical targets" that represent the access of plasma parameters (temperature, density, etc.) to the thermonuclear range, and has promoted big projects that literally pioneer the new frontier. In parallel to pushing parameters, these projects have revealed the basic problems that make up the "reason" behind the numerical "results." We have reached a level where fusion science can be developed as diverse themes bearing academic meaning. NIFS will evolve into an academic research institute symbolized by the theme of "well-posed problems" representing fusion science.

The LHD, being a unique experimental system, has been the seat of many new discoveries. It is necessary to generalize the results as principles that apply to various phenomena in a complex world, rather than ascribing them to the specialties (merits) of the device. Here, generalization means extracting “genetic information” that can be realized by various objects. Such genetic information will propagate to the DNA = blueprint of future fusion reactors (as well as of various future technologies). In the final phase of the LHD project (scheduled to be completed by FY 2022), we will focus on creating "general information" that will succeed the post LHD era.

Toward the new age, NIFS will effect a drastic reorganization by constructing twin central pillars, “units” and “platforms”.

〇 The unit is an organizational element of academic activity; the theme of each unit represents an aspect of fusion science that we define by our vision for the next 10 years. We will organize about ten units. The unit themes will be the identity of the future NIFS.

〇 The platform is the basic hardware supporting academic activities. As an inter-university research institute , NIFS must fulfill diverse requirements of the fusion science community. We will investigate the academic facilities that NIFS should have, the strategy that maximizes the value of the LHD properties, and the next generation large project that NIFS should start.

NIFS will create a broad avenue crowded with many researchers, through which the scope of “fusion science” will extend in the world of science. I hope that many people will pay attention to the evolution of NIFS, and participate in our activity.

April 2021