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Remarkable progress in the past decade in tokamak magnetic confinement devices has made it possible to plan and design an experimental reactor, called the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER), by the international collaboration. Data on plasma behavior obtained by the world-wide tokamak devices have been accumulated and analyzed in a coordinated manner which constitute a sound basis for the prediction of ITER core plasma performance. Large scale technology R&D including development, manufacturing, and testing of scalable models of major tokamak components has been also pursued that ensured technical feasibility of ITER design. Thus, ITER is now technically ready to start construction, and the governmental negotiation on its construction, operation, and exploitation activities, etc., has been underway since November 2001. After reaching agreement on important issues for ITER, the international ITER organization is expected to start in 2004, and the main purpose of its exploitation; control of significantly burning plasma will be achieved within a few decades. Aiming at the ultimate goal of steady-state operation at high plasma pressure for ITER and beyond, researches for advanced modes of plasma in tokamaks are continued by the existing experimental devices. Alternative approaches by nontokamak experimental devices in universities and national institutes have also been made in parallel. To reorganize these activities centered at ITER as a core program, the reform for more a efficient system of the entire Japanese fusion program were discussed in the special working group under the government (MEXT). This paper gives an overview of current activities and future program on magnetic confinement fusion research in Japan.
Date of Publication: April 2004