Yes, you read that correctly. And though this is not a recent story (it is two months' old this very day), it nevertheless intrigued me, and I think you'll see why at the end of this blog. But here, in a nutshell, is the story: a US firm, Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, and an Iranian university, the Islamic Azad University in Tehran, have signed an agreement to cooperate in research and publishing of papers on aneutronic fusion processes and technologies:
What interested me here was not simply the US Treasury Department's questionable loopholes(which we'll get back to), but also the signatories of this agreement, one of whom was Eric J. Lerner, author of The Big Bang Never Happened, which is probably the best layman's introduction to the plasma physics cosmology of Swedish plasma physicist Hannes Alfven. The title of Lerner's book says it all: there are alternatives to the standard model, thought most physicists are of course adherents of that model. The type of technologies and physics being talked about here is more conducive to technologies that would apply themselves to peaceful purposes, and, if successful, would totally eliminate the need for costly (and as recent events have shown, risky) fission reactors.
Which brings us to the first point. The US Treasury's exemptions:
"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 license which “authorizes collaborating with “academics and research institutions” of sanctioned countries on the… creation and enhancement of written publications.” The collaboration was first proposed to LPP on April 17 by Dr. Mahmood Ghoranneviss, Dean Professor of PPRC, and the chief organizer 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 finalize the one-page agreement."
There are two interesting things to contemplate here, both highly speculative: (1) Just how much technology and technique could be transferred to Iran under such exemptions, and how much was transferred from this country to Tehran? and more importantly: (2) careful reading of this paragraph implies that a message, or offer, was sent to Iran via the USA's Voice of America Radio broadcasts, suggesting a cooperative effort, not so much in fission, but in fusion, an offer which the paragraph makes clear, Iran accepted.
We may view this, I think, in three possible ways. First, the offer was legitimate, but may cloak a covert intelligence agenda, to learn of the extent, and real goal, of the Iranian program. Conversely, and secondly, the offer was legitimate, and may be an attempt, through low-level diplomacy and the establishment of such areas of cooperation, to defuse the situation, or, thirdly, it may be some combination of both.
In my opinion we're probably looking at both, but there seems to be a deeper issue implied here: why a Voice of America program, broadcasting offers to Iran, about cooperation in fusion research, now? Fusion would spell the end not only of oil and other "fossil" fuels as the major source of energy for the world, but would signal the end of Iran's oil-driven economy. The signal - fusion- seems to be lost if not altogether drowned in the noise of war that constantly seems to be in the rumbling foreground whenever Iran is even mentioned publicly.
I don't know about the rest of you, but the timing of this little announcement, given all the noise, is to me more than suspicious. What it portends, I do not know, but this story, and any like it right now, bear watching carefully.
See you on the flip side.