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A Nuclear Energy Obsession Leads to FBI Investigation

The New York Times has a bizarre story today about a former government scientist who attempted to sell Venezuela plans to build a nuclear bomb, in exchange for help furthering his vision for a nuclear fusion technology that could revolutionize the way energy is produced.

It’s the story of a man, P. Leonardo Mascheroni, who has had a life-long obsession with developing the laser technology, sending plans and hundred-page-long letters to lawmakers and experts in hopes of finding a supporter. But support never came, and Mascheroni’s obsession, the FBI alleges, took a dark turn when he accepted money from an undercover agent posing as a Venezuelan official who promised him to help develop the technology.

It’s definitely worth a read.

An excerpt:

Dr. Mascheroni, 75, is a nuclear scientist who has spent the 22 years since he left the Los Alamos National Laboratory trying to sell Congress, the scientific community, journalists — anyone who would listen, really, including this reporter — on his plan to build a giant laser for the achievement of nuclear fusion.

His plan earned respect and high-level endorsements, but the government chose a different path. Rather than give up, Dr. Mascheroni redoubled his campaign, sending out lengthy technical documents from his home in New Mexico to try to coax Washington to finance his laser.

“You’d get these fat FedEx packages,” said Steven Aftergood, a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists.

As he was snubbed by Congress and federal experts, Dr. Mascheroni, a naturalized citizen who was born in Argentina, grew increasingly frustrated and bitter. He became known in Washington for veiled threats to take his atomic expertise abroad unless the government backed his laser plan. He seemed to think that he could bully the federal establishment into big spending, according to people on the receiving end of his missives.

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