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Copyright © 1999, by the Middle East DataProject, Inc. All rights reserved.

Issue No. 62, Sept. 6, 1999

Iran to buy nuclear fusion plant from Canada (Serial 6201- Excerpts)


The Islamic Republic is seeking to by a Tokamak nuclear fusionreactor from Canada, despite diplomatic efforts by the United Statesto block the sale and objections from a nuclear industry watchdoggroup that it could enhance Iran's nuclear weapons program.

The $50 million Tokamak reactor is the primary asset of theCanadian Centre for Fusion Magnetics (CCFM), a publicly-fundedresearch facility in Montreal that is being closed down by theCanadian government. Despite efforts spanning more than thirty years,led initially by the Soviet Union which pioneered the Tokamakreactors, no researchers have been able to produce acommercially-viable fusion reactor, which is still believed to bethirty years and tens of billions of dollars away.

Tokamak reactors are designed to demonstrate the principles of acontrolled fusion reaction by heating plasma contained withindoughnut-shaped electromagnetic fields. As the plasma heats, the gasbreaks down, separating electrons from the nuclei. Some of thesecollide, creating fusion, and in the process giving off energy. Untilnow, experts say, they have succeeded only in producing short burstsof power, which generally consume far more energy to generate thanthey give off. If the reaction is difficult to get going, says CCFMdirector Dr. Real Decoste, researchers know it can work. "The sun andthe stars use the same process," he says, "so we have living proof inthe universe that it works."

So why would Iran be interested in such a technology, if it has noimmediate application and will require billions of dollars andinternational cooperation to develop commercially? That question iswhat troubles U.S. government officials tracking Iran's clandestineefforts to acquire nuclear weapons technology....

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