Iran intends to carry out activities to support development of a nuclear fusion reactor, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, July 21).
The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization plans Saturday to formally mark the start of the fusion reactor studies, state media reported.
Although the nuclear fusion process takes place during hydrogen bomb detonation, no sustained fusion reaction capable of power production has been achieved to date. The United States and its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program is geared toward nuclear weapons development, an allegation Tehran has consistently denied (Associated Press I/Sydney Morning Herald, July 22).
Meanwhile, U.S. officials dismissed an assertion reported yesterday that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri provided Tehran with sensitive details on CIA operations after going back to his home nation, the New York Times reported.
Amiri disappeared in May 2009 during a trip to Saudi Arabia. News reports in the United States said he had defected and was supporting CIA activities against Tehran's nuclear program. The Iranian government said Amiri had been abducted, a claim supported by the scientist upon his return to Tehran this month.
Amiri "never had access to American intelligence information,” a U.S. official said. “That’s a joke. When you stack what Amiri might have learned here -- what he had for dinner or the fake name of someone who might have come to see him -- up against verified insights about Iran’s nuclear program, it’s crystal clear that we got the better end of things.”
The scientist described how Iran established a secret hub for its nuclear activities at a Tehran university, U.S. officials said.
In addition, intelligence provided by Amiri helped inform a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program, according to the officials. The report asserted with "high confidence" that Tehran halted its formal nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and with "moderate confidence" that the effort had not been resumed. The Obama administration is now preparing a new intelligence assessment on Iran's atomic activities.
The scientist has maintained a "fantasy" of being kidnapped in a bid to save himself from punishment, U.S. officials said. Despite public commendations Amiri received following his return to Iran, Tehran's need to set an example for potential defectors places the scientist's future treatment into question, according to some experts (Yong/Worth, New York Times, July 21).
Elsewhere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday expressed doubt that Tehran sincerely intends to help resolve disputes over its atomic work, Reuters reported.
"At the moment Iran does not seem to be working on solving the problems with the International Atomic Energy Agency with real seriousness," Merkel said. "We have already started many rounds of negotiations with Iran, and it will surprise no one that I am a little skeptical whether that will lead anywhere" (Reuters, July 21).
An organization of Iranian exiles urged the European Union to fully cut off Tehran's petroleum imports and adopt tough economic penalties against the nation's central bank, AP reported today. The National Council of Resistance of Iran suggested U.N. Security Council sanctions enacted to date would not exert sufficient pressure to influence the government's nuclear policies.
"The time has come for a firm policy on every aspect," said Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the organization (Associated Press II/Yahoo!News, July 22).