Iran researching nuclear fusion reactor
Top official admits to studies into novel way of harnessing atom.
A top Iranian official said on Saturday that Tehran was conducting studies into building an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, which if successful would be the first such plant in the world, writes the AFP newswire.
"Studies and examining the feasibility of a national plan titled 'Designing and building experimental nuclear fusion reactor and plant' are under way," Asghar Sedighzadeh, head of Iran's Nuclear Fusion Research Centre was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
Earlier on Saturday, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said an eight-million-dollar fund had been set up to conduct "serious" research in the area of nuclear fusion.
He said 50 people had been hired for the work, which the Islamic republic began nearly three decades ago but was initially "not very serious" about pursuing.
"Fusion research has been launched seriously today," ISNA quoted Salehi as saying.
"The start-up budget is 80 billion rials (eight million dollars)," he said.
"It takes 20 to 30 years before this process can be commercialised but we have to use all the capacity in the country to provide the necessary speed for fusion research."
Nuclear fusion has long been touted as the cheap, safe and clean energy source of the future, but efforts to harness it for power generation have so far failed to bear fruit.
Fusion is used in the hydrogen bomb, in which fissile material like that in a simple nuclear warhead launches the process by which atomic nuclei fuse together to release energy.
Iran has always rejected Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is aimed at developing a weapons capability.
In May, North Korea said it carried out a nuclear fusion reaction that could lead to an almost limitless supply of clean energy, a process that scientists have so far yet to achieve.
Physicists worldwide are striving to develop a nuclear fusion power plant, a project which the International Atomic Energy Agency terms "a great challenge."