May 29, 2006

Iran says research on nuclear fusion progressing

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran is pressing ahead with research
tests on nuclear fusion, a type of atomic reaction which has
yet to be developed for commercial power generation, a senior
Iranian official said on Monday.

Iran said in the 1990s it was working on nuclear fusion
research but this is the first mention in years that the work
is continuing and comes at a time of heightened tension over
Iran's nuclear program.

Iran has been hauled before the U.N. Security Council for
failing to convince the world that its atomic work is not being
used to make bombs. Tehran insists it only wants to generate

"Iran has done various fusion tests for research purposes
at its Amirabad research reactor over the last few years," the
official told Reuters, referring to the reactor in central
Tehran, adding that Iran was continuing to carry out such

"We do fusion tests for research purposes from time to
time," he said.

Commercial nuclear reactors rely on nuclear fission, a
process that generates energy from splitting atoms.

Fusion tries to generate power by joining nuclei of atoms
together, but scientists have yet to develop a commercial way
of doing this so that it produces more energy than it consumes.

Each development in Iran's nuclear program is scrutinized
by the international community. Iran surprised experts in April
by announcing it had enriched uranium for the first time in
small quantities to the level used in nuclear power plants.

As long ago as 1996, the then Iranian President Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani said Iran was pressing ahead with research
on nuclear fusion.

In 1999, Canada said it had blocked a plan to sell its
experimental nuclear fusion program to Iran because it could be
used to make atomic bombs.

Nuclear arms incorporating fusion are also called
thermonuclear bombs.