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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid