Should Iran have nuclear power? Paper addressing question retracted for authorship issues

When Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews accepted a paper last year arguing that nuclear power is Iran’s “assured right,” the editor, Lawrence Kazmirski, thought the article would be at least somewhat controversial. He was right — but for the wrong reason.

Shortly after publication, Kazmirski,  director of the National Center for Photovoltaics at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, Colo., received an email from one of the listed co-authors of the article complaining that he and another co-author had not consented to submit the work. Kazmirski contacted the lead author, Afshin Mazandarani, who agreed to withdraw the paper.

The result was the following notice, which appeared in October (we only recently saw it):

WITHDRAWN: Investigating the need of nuclear power plants for sustainable energy in Iran
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 15, Issue 8, October 2011, Pages 3575-3587
A. Mazandarani

This article has been retracted at the request of the author as it contains significant scientific errors. The paper was also submitted without the consent of the co-authors. The lead author apologizes sincerely for the technical oversight and to the coauthors for submitting without consultation.

As a consequence, pages 3575–3587 originally occupied by the retracted article are missing from the printed issue. The publisher apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.

In addition to Mazandarani are three other authors, T.M.I., Mahlia , W.T., Chong , M., Moghavvemi, all at the University of Malaya. We’re guessing — although we couldn’t confirm this — that Chong did not lodge the complaint, because his website lists the article, whereas Mahlia’s and Moghavvemi’s do not.

Kazmerski told us that in cases of authorship disputes, his journal’s policy has been to allow the paper to be resubmitted — provided, of course, the problem can be straightened out. He said that in the past year or so, he has dealt with “four or five” articles that have involved authorship issues.

I as the editor will always write the [main] author and say, How do you respond to this?

We wondered whether Mazandarani’s colleagues didn’t pull away from the article given its controversial nature. Although we couldn’t find the full paper, we did manage to dig up the abstract, which makes the politically charged claim that Iran not only should have a nuclear power complex, it is the country’s “assured right”:

Over the decades, the consumption of all types of energy such as electricity increased rapidly in Iran. Therefore, the government decided to redevelop its nuclear program to meet the rising electricity demand and decrease consumption of fossil fuels. In this paper, the effect of this policy in four major aspects of energy sustainability in the country, including energy price, environmental issues, energy demand and energy security have been verified. To investigate the relative cost of electricity generated in each alternative generator, the simple levelized electricity cost was selected as a method. The results show that electricity cost in fossil fuel… Highlights: • Using nuclear energy including its fuel cycle is Iran’s assured right. • Electricity cost in fossil fuel power plants presumably will be cheaper than nuclear. • Constructing more nuclear power plants will not cause the energy sustainability in Iran. • The main threats for Iran’s energy security are economic dependency on crude oil export. • Most important action is reforming inefficient oil and gas consumption in all sectors.

Kazmerski said that while Mazandarani (who did not reply to a request for comment) was cooperative and agreed to resubmit the paper, he has not heard anything from the researcher in months. Still, he liked the article and would be glad to republish it.

I found the paper quite interesting. The authors wrote it from a sustainable energy point of view, and  we don’t get a lot of articles about nuclear power.

Indeed, the journal does not have a section editor for nuclear matters.

My argument is that the nuclear and the renewable people should be a hell of a lot more friendly. We both have problems and we both have benefits.

5 thoughts on “Should Iran have nuclear power? Paper addressing question retracted for authorship issues”

  1. I have a few comments about the political situation, not really about the paper itself:
    As a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, Iran has a right to develop nuclear power. The problem is that they haven’t been doing that. Where are the nuclear power plants that would use the enriched fuel that Iran is producing? Why won’t Iran allow full and unrestricted inspection of their nuclear production facilities?
    If the Iranians weren’t so secretive about their nuclear production facilities, there wouldn’t be so much suspicion of their intentions. The paper that was retracted may well have a point, but it is hard to trust the Iranians when they are so un-transparent about their nuclear work.
    The basic questions about Iran’s compliance with the provisions of the nonproliferation treaty have been obfuscated by political talk and Iran’s paranoia, not to mention the vicious nature of their talk about Israel and the US. The only hope for prevention of war is honest, thorough negotiation.

    1. You put too much emphasis on Iran being a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. Are you implying that once Iran ceases to be the signatory, you will be happy with them developing nuclear technology for any purpose they see fit? I guess not. Conversely, Israel should also be held to the same standards as the rest of the world. It should not matter that they are not a signatory of the treaty. In fact, it should work against them. Although I do not believe there are any nuclear weapons in Israel, as it would be strategically irresponsible to keep them in such a tiny country, they project something quite opposite and, as a result, make their neighbors nervous.
      As to this retracted paper, my theory is that the Iranian author felt that adding a few foreign coauthors would make his paper look more objective. The foreign authors, in turn, felt that it was not good for their safety to be linked in any way to the Iranian nuclear program. Interestingly, the paper was published by Elsevier, so I guess only US-based publishers are prevented from accepting manuscripts originated in Iran.

  2. Chirality, none of the authors are based in Iran, it is a Malaysian ‘group’, all from the same department. The one co-author who mentions the paper on his CV appears to be Malaysian (whole education obtained in Malaysia, and he has a Chinese name), while one of the two not mentioning it has an Iranian last name (but he was not educated there). So, you may need to rethink your hypothesis.

    Is there a ban on the publication of manuscripts from Iran?

    1. I stand corrected. I just noted that the main author’s website was based in Iran. In any case, my hypothesis is still valid. The Malaysians might have been a bit apprehensive about being perceived as proponents of a nuclear Iran. Who wouldn’t…

  3. Any idea what the “significant scientific errors were”? If the journal does not have a nuclear matters editor, does that mean the editorial team lack nuclear reviewers in their collective contacts book?

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