The Energy Department is subsidizing two Russian nuclear institutes that are building important parts of a reactor in Iran whose construction the United States spent years trying to stop, according to a House committee.
The institutes gave American officials documents listing the Bushehr reactor, which Russia has agreed to fuel, as one of their projects. One institute is providing control systems and the other, pumps and ventilation fans.
The Energy Department is subsidizing the institutes under the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention, set up after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The program was intended to prevent newly impoverished scientists and their institutions from selling expertise to states or terrorist groups.
The United States supplements the salaries of scientists and pays overhead at those institutes, according to the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.
It was not immediately clear whether the Energy Department was contributing to the salaries of the very scientists involved in the Bushehr reactor project. Two Michigan Democrats - Reps. John D. Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak, chairman of that committee's Oversight and Investigations subcommittee - asked that question in a letter Wednesday to Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.
Bodman is supposed to testify today before the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Dingell, pointed out that the State Department has accused Iran of using the Bushehr reactor as a cover for obtaining technology useful in a weapons program. "We've got U.S. money providing assistance to help develop a reactor that we're busy denouncing," Dingell said.
The Energy Department said Wednesday that, "We are confident that none of the projects ... support nuclear work in Iran."