Given the weighty U.S. sanctions imposed upon Iran for its nuclear program, this is a story we never expected to write. A group of leading American nuclear scientists in New Jersey are joining forces with an Iranian team.
The New Jersey-based research firm Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LLP) have announced they’ve already “signed a contract on May 20 with the Plasma Physics Research centre (PPRC) of I. Azad University in Tehran, Iran.”
A quick Internet search of this Iranian institution — consisting of a chain of colleges — shows that its full name is “Islamic Azad University.” It’s a small detail, but a little strange of the LLP official press release to diminish their new partner’s name to a mere I. It just looked like someone wanted to dust that fact under the rug.
But how is this partnership even possible given U.S.-Iran relations? Well, there’s a loop-hole:
The agreement falls within an exemption to the otherwise broad sanctions of the US against Iran. The US Department of Treasury’s regulations include a general licence which “authorizes collaborating with “academics and research institutions” of sanctioned countries on the… creation and enhancement of written publications.”
The two research teams will collaborate on writing scientific publications about their joint discoveries on aneutronic fusion. The LLP explains:
In the past three years, Iran has become a major player in the small but growing global effort to achieve aneutronic fusion power—controlled nuclear fusion using fuels that produce no neutrons. Controlled fusion harnesses the power that heats the sun–nuclear fusion–as a source of energy for peaceful purposes. Fuels that don’t produce neutrons are important because neutrons can be extremely destructive, damaging the structure of a fusion generator and inducing radioactivity.
Focusing on the partnership, LLP President and Chief Scientist Eric J. Learner says:
“This agreement can greatly aid the development of aneutronic fusion, a potential source of cheap, safe, clean and unlimited energy,” according to the release.
“While we all publish our results in scientific journals already, this new systematic collaboration in data exchange, analysis, and design of experiments will substantially accelerate the creation and publication of scientific results. The PPRC has large resources of highly trained personnel, and LPP can offer its many years of experience as a leading centre in aneutronic fusion.”
Fars News Agency reports that LLP’s work could be a game-changer, if things go to plan: it’s “one of several small companies that believe they can crack fusion far sooner than can ITER or the National Ignition Facility (NIF), another international behemoth, based in Livermore, California. “
Checking out the LLP website this morning, Google informed us “This site may be compromised” — due to search engine’s belief that the website may have been hacked — but we proceeded anyway and came across the contract in question, which you can see and evaluate for yourself:
Photo: Lawrenceville Plasma Physics
LLP says that the whole idea to work with Iranian researchers originally came from Tehran:
The collaboration was first proposed to LPP on April 17 by Dr. Mahmood Ghoranneviss, Dean Professor of PPRC, and the chief organiser of Iran’s fusion research effort. Dr. Ghoranneviss was responding to the April 10 broadcast of a report on the “Fusion for Peace” proposal by the Persian (Farsi) language TV channel of Voice of America (Persian News Network). On that broadcast, Lerner and Rezwan Razani, Executive Director of the Fusion Energy League and co-director of the Focus Fusion Society, described the initiative. Dr. Ghoranneviss was also informed of the proposal by Hamid Reza Youseffi, a professor at PPRC and one of the signers of the Fusion for Peace proposal. In just one month, LPP and PPRC were able to finalise the one-page agreement.
Fars News Agency also reports President Obama’s council of advisors on sciences and technology will be formally notified of the partnership this Friday afternoon in Washington, DC.
But the notification will come way after the fact, as the contract was signed more than a week ago.
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