Business leaders and academics supporting construction of a next-generation thermal fusion reactor in Japan set up a conference Feb. 25 to promote broader public consensus on the issue.

Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), which took the initiative in creating the forum, said he hopes Japan will be able to host the project as a way of revitalizing its research and development abilities. Keidanren officials are eager for the project to be hosted here, fearing that a lack of large-scale high-tech projects in the nation will lead to a further hollowing-out of industries and technological knowhow, as well as to fewer jobs and motivation for Japanese engineers.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project was jointly developed by Japan, the United States, the European Union and Russia. The 1 trillion yen project aims to generate electricity by heating tritium to around 100 million degrees and creating nuclear fusion. While some researchers doubt whether the project will really work, others say it has potential to become a safe, clean and semipermanent energy source in the future.

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