NHK has learned that scientists in Japan will soon issue a statement warning of an emergency due to a global shortage of helium. The gas is widely used in the research and manufacture of semiconductors and medical equipment.
Helium is non-flammable and used as a cooling agent. All stocks in Japan are imported.
But global supplies became especially tight last year. That was after the US, the world's biggest producer, started slashing its exports, due largely to an industry privatization move. The costs of Japan's helium imports have tripled over the past decade.
In their statement, the scientists will ask the government to quickly set up facilities and systems to recycle and store helium.
Importers put priority on supplying medical institutions and manufacturers.