On June 1, 2021, the Institute of Innovative Research Laboratory for Advanced Nuclear Energy was reorganized to form the new Laboratory for Zero-Carbon Energy. The laboratory's objective will be to help realize a carbon-neutral society through innovative research and the development of non-fossil (zero-carbon) energy sources, as well as systems for their use. We will help build the foundation of a society capable of sustainable economic growth in harmony with the environment.
To that end, we intend to construct carbon-free energy systems that use renewable energy and nuclear energy and have a balanced carbon cycle. In cooperation with all of society's stakeholders, we will advance our research and development into energy systems as a whole, encompassing our existing nuclear energy research as well as the field of renewable energy.
The enormous amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released by humanity's mass consumption of fossil fuels totaled some 32.8 billion tons in the year 2017, and has already affected the global climate. There is a pressing need for immediate restrictions on CO2 emissions. Many developed countries, including Japan, have set goals to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by around the year 2050. These nations are currently studying carbon-neutral and net-zero emissions energy systems. In response to this, their economies, industries and public awareness are reaching a new turning point. The key to achieving a low-carbon society is to shift to zero-carbon primary energy sources. In other words, we need to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, nuclear energy, and other forms of zero-carbon energy.
That said, carbon has been a key material to humankind throughout history. To continue using carbon will require recycling and reusing it. Building a sustainable society will also require recycling and reusing materials. We need to turn these processes into a system that is economical and provides a stable supply of energy. The new laboratory's goal is to create a society that uses zero-carbon energy and reuses/recycles carbon and energy carriers. To realize this goal, we will build individual technologies for the production, efficient use, storage, material conversion, public use and reuse/recycling of zero-carbon energy, as well as net-zero emissions energy networks that optimize all of these technologies. We will then provide technical solutions to the problems faced by energy users — businesses, people, and communities — through collaborations with them.
The new laboratory will have two divisions: the Future Energy Division and the Nuclear Engineering Division.
The Future Energy Division will research the net-zero carbon cycle energy systems based on zero-carbon energy needed to build the energy networks of the future. The goal will be to construct economic and stable energy systems based on energy economics and sociology. The division will strive to design stable energy provision systems that compensate for renewable energy sources' instability in generating power.
Quantitatively speaking, heat is nearly as essential as electricity in the supply of energy. This division will investigate the storage and conversion of electrical and thermal energy into energy carriers — which will play a vital role in future energy networks — as well as the material recycling/reuse systems that will support sustainable energy societies. Finally, the division will delve deeper into the public implementation of these systems (energy solutions) in collaboration with residents and the communities they live in, as well as with business, academic and government entities.
The Nuclear Engineering Division, meanwhile, will focus on two main tasks. The first is to break free of the closed nature of the Japanese nuclear industry and expand research into advanced nuclear energy systems such as small modular reactors — which will offer the safety and mobility/flexibility the zero-carbon energy society requires — as well as nuclear fusion reactors, which were expected to become the primary energy source of the new century. The second task is to research the use of radiation in life and medical sciences, which will support cancer treatment and other aspects of the advanced medical care that Japan's aging society will require.
Meanwhile, it is our mission as nuclear energy researchers to actively assist in the recovery of Fukushima, which suffered greatly due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To that end, the laboratory will include two organizations specializing in nuclear decommissioning research: the Fukushima Reconstruction and Revitalization Unit and the TEPCO Collaborative Research Cluster for Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Frontier Technology Creation, the latter being a collaboration with the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Through these organizations, the laboratory will help in the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
We will strive to build a sustainable future energy society through these activities. We hope to obtain your understanding and cooperation as well as receive your advice and encouragement.