News / Middle East

    Iran to Step Up Nuclear Fusion Research

    The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Saturday that his country is stepping up its research on nuclear fusion in a bid to produce alternative sources of energy.  The announcement comes as world powers pressure Tehran to suspend its controversial nuclear activities.

    It was not clear why Iran's atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, chose this moment to make his announcement.

    During a conference on developing alternative energy sources Saturday, Salehi said Tehran plans to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor.  He said that Iran had hired 50 scientists to work on the project, and that $8 million had been allocated for what he called "serious" research.

    Nuclear fusion is a process in which light atomic particles, such as hydrogen, are combined to form heavier particles that release a great amount of energy.  However, this type of atomic reaction has not been successfully developed for commercial power, despite five decades of intensive research.

    In 2006, global powers agreed to spend more than $12 billion to build an experimental fusion reactor in the south of France.  That accord was signed by the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

    Salehi, who has a doctorate from MIT, claimed that Iran's project would require intense effort, but could provide Tehran with large dividends in diversifying its sources of civilian energy.

    He says that nuclear fusion is a new technology, and that it needs intense effort to develop.  He adds that it will take 20 to 30 years to commercialize nuclear fusion, but that Iran will try to use its resources to achieve that goal sooner.

    Nuclear fusion is also the technology behind thermonuclear explosions used in hydrogen bombs.  Such weapons are more powerful than ordinary atomic bombs, which rely on fission reactions.

    Iran's nuclear program is already engulfed in a cloud of controversy for enriching uranium, a process than can be used to produce an atomic weapon.  Tehran claims that it is enriching uranium for its civilian nuclear program.  Western nations suspect Iran is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons.

    The United Nations recently imposed a new set of economic sanctions against Iran because of its sensitive nuclear activities.

    Asghar Sediqzadeh, who was appointed to run Iran's new fusion research center, told Iranian television that it would take two years to conclude initial studies, followed by another 10 years to design and build a fusion reactor.

    Foundation for the Defense of Democracies senior fellow Emanuele Ottolenghi has written extensively about Iran's nuclear program.  He argues that it makes more sense that Iran would want to harness nuclear fusion for military than for civilian purposes.

    "If the Iranians had this wonderful technological edge over the rest of the world, and they were about to produce a nuclear reactor that does fusion in a commercially viable fashion, bless them," said Ottolenghi.  "But, the fact that nobody else has done it so far suggests that maybe the Iranians are up to just playful banter.  However, if one looks at what the reality of a military program is, if you want to have thermonuclear weapons, you need to master the technology for fusion.  And while fusion is not commercially viable for civilian purposes, fusion allows you to build infinitely more powerful nuclear weapons."

    According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran's controversial nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz has now produced close to 2.5 tons of low-grade, enriched uranium.  The Iranian government claims it now has 17 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium.  Experts say that such a quantity could be used to build two nuclear (fission-based) warheads.

    Ottolenghi notes that Iran has now produced enough uranium to build fission-based nuclear weapons within a reasonable amount of time, if it chose to do so.  The question, he adds, is whether Tehran can work secretly enough to avoid getting caught before reaching its goal.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora