Posted in News on March 23, 2012 by Aaron Blake

Three physicists, one US and two Iranian, have issued a statement proposing a joint US- research collaboration that they contend could be an alternative to confrontation and war and, if successful, could “make uranium enrichment obsolete, block proliferation everywhere, liberate the world from , and open up a new source of cheap, clean unlimited energy.&;

The proposal, published in the online newspaper, OpEdNews, calls on the US and Iranian governments to set up a joint US-Iran Aneutronic Program to research methods of producing nuclear energy without the production of neutrons. Aneutronic devices can be extremely compact and economical to build, so they can be researched for more quickly and cheaply than the deuterium-tritium devices that have been the main line of research. In the past few years, Iran and the US have become the leading countries pursuing this type of device. If they can be developed, they would provide safe, far more cheaply than uranium-based nuclear fission, and would thus make the entire uranium enrichment cycle obsolete.

The Iranian and US scientists have already been collaborating informally, exchanging ideas and data, but are calling for a joint project to greatly accelerate this research. Until the past year, aneutronic fusion, which requires temperatures of billions of degrees, was considered simply too difficult by most researchers. However recent results, including news that was published today in the respected peer-reviewed journal Physics of Plasmas, have shown that such extra temperatures can be produced and confined using small devices. One such device, called the dense plasma focus (DPF) can be built for only a few hundred thousand dollars, and Iran now has set up more of these devices than any other country in the world. The US is the only other country with an active aneutronic fusion effort.

The scientists’ statement says that “aneutronic fusion could make uranium enrichment obsolete because, if it works, aneutronic-fusion-produced would be cheaper than any available today. Aneutronic fuels produce energy that can be converted directly into , without going through the expensive cycle of generating steam and putting it through turbines. Such an ideal would be far cheaper than nuclear fission energy based on uranium, (what is commonly called ). There would be no reason for Iran or any other country to continue to pursue fission energy for peaceful purposes. To prevent nuclear weapon proliferation, the use of uranium could be universally banned as nuclear fission energy production was shut down.”

They call on the two governments to “rapidly establish two Aneutronic Fusion Centers, one in the US and one in Iran, staffed by scientists and engineers from both countries and funded by the governments in proportion to their respective national GDPs. These Centers would work in cooperation with existing research groups, but with greater resources could speed up the work several-fold. Research results would be fully shared by the two countries. As the project grows, other countries not now involved in aneutronic work can join in.”

The scientists are urging other researchers and concerned citizens to join in this call. A petition aimed at the US administration is circulating at FusionForPeace.org.

Source: Lawrenceville Plasma Physics