Japanese and US officials are to develop a joint programme to promote hydrogen-based energy technology.

The Japanese government will co-operate with US agencies to produce hydrogen by means of a high-temperature test reactor, or HTTR, which will be built at the US Department of Energy’s National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Japan’s Nuclear Energy Institute will assist in the project, officials said.

Technologists view hydrogen-based fuel cells as one of the most promising energy resources for the future. However, hydrogen production remains an expensive process and scientists think it might best be accomplished by using nuclear reactors to generate the electricity necessary to liberate hydrogen from water. Officials also hope the effort will promote the construction of more nuclear plants in Japan, by extending the scope of nuclear energy development to include hydrogen production, Growth in nuclear power has stalled in Japan in recent years owing to technical mishaps and nuclear safety scandals.