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U.S. Sabotages Iran’s Fusion Research with ITER

Nov. 6, 2017 (EIRNS)—What could be more self-defeating than prohibiting scientists who are working on the great challenge of bringing into being controlled fusion energy for mankind, from working with international colleagues, and with the most advanced experiments? Yet, that is reportedly what the U.S. has done. Science Magazine reported on October 31, that the U. S. is preventing Iran from collaborating with the ITER international fusion project, by essentially vetoing its participation.

Iran’s promised cooperation with ITER is one of the specific "deliverables" written into the P5+1 nuclear agreement, formally, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and as EIR has covered in two interviews with the head of the Iranian delegation to ITER, the two sides have been working on formulating a formal agreement of fusion cooperation for more than a year. Iranian fusion scientists have visited and toured ITER, and been warmly received by Director-General Bigot. Bigot has been to Iran to see their tokamak experiment. Decisions regarding participation in the project are made by the ITER Council, with representatives of all of the partners, which are the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan, China, India, and South Korea. Decisions must be unanimous. As far as the Science report indicates, the U.S. was the only partner to object.

The Iranians want to start the cooperation by training a group of their doctoral students at ITER, and scientists in Iran would conduct plasma studies on their own tokamak, in support of ITER. (There are small fusion experiments around the world that conduct research to support ITER). They hoped that, in the future, they would make substantial contributions to the international fusion experiment, and even become full partners.

As one would expect, the Iranian scientists, led by Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of the Atomic Energy Organization, who was a principal negotiator for the nuclear agreement, are angry. The head of the Iranian fusion delegation to ITER and a founder of Iran’s fusion program, Mahmood Ghoranneviss, said, "In fusion, there are no secrets. But in our case, science and politics are mixing." Ghoranneviss explained in an EIR interview how sanctions against Iran had already hampered any cooperation with U.S. scientists.

There has been vocal opposition in the American scientific community to abrogating the agreement. Recently, more than 90 American scientists wrote an appeal to Congress to keep the nuclear agreement with Iran. In the case of fusion research, the greatest harm is to limit the minds and talent of scientists who could contribute.