National Institute for Fusion Science

About 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 towards a new era of fusion research.  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.

The road to fusion power is filled with many twists, turns making it much more arduous than was envisaged at the beginning (mid-20th century) of this journey. However, it is not necessarily unfortunate that we encounter unexpected challenges. As attested by many great researchers, discovery is born from failure, leading to new truths which exist outside the range that one can predict. Fusion energy is a steep peak for researchers to climb, but it is also a treasure trove for academic researchers. The task of the academic researcher is to deploy new knowledge derived from the solution of difficult problems. The project of fusion energy development has led to a wide-ranging academic collaboration involving researchers in various disciplines and has become a fertile field for the development of nonequilibrium, nonlinear science and technology.

In the challenge of fusion science, we first must 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 applications. So far, fusion science has focused on "numerical targets" that represent the access of plasma parameters (temperature, density, etc.) in the thermonuclear range, and has promoted big projects that pioneer the new frontier. In parallel to pushing parameters, these projects have revealed the basic problems that make up the "reasons" for the numerical "results." We have reached a level where fusion science can be developed as diverse themes possessing academic significance. NIFS will evolve into a system of “units”, each of which is an interdisciplinary research team organized around a theme of well-posed problems in fusion science.

As a joint research institute, NIFS develops and operates a research infrastructure (platform) to conduct world-class joint research. The LHD, the core research platform of NIFS, is a top-class plasma device equipped with high-precision instruments. Being a unique experimental system, LHD has brought many 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 in various objects. Such genetic information will propagate to the DNA = blueprint of future fusion reactors (as well as of various future technologies). Under the new mission of interdisciplinary development of fusion science, LHD will be operated for three years (2023-2025), and we will work on generating "genetic information" to be handed over to the post-LHD era.

As an innovative technology that holds the key to carbon neutrality, fusion energy is expected to be put to practical use as soon as possible. Setting the goal of social implementation of fusion technology will be a driving force for innovation in various scientific and technological fields. NIFS will create a broad avenue crowded with many researchers, through which the scope of “fusion science” will extend into the world of science. I hope that many people will pay attention to the evolution of NIFS and participate in our activity.

April 2023