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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Lasers, Uranium, and Proliferation
13 April 2010 3:00 pm
National Public Radio looks at an emerging proliferation risk—a method of enriching uranium to make fuel for nuclear power using lasers. They spoke to Francis Slakey, a physicist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.:
... a laser-based enrichment plant can be much smaller and use much less electricity. And that could make a clandestine operation much harder to detect, he says.
"That's the worry — things are starting to get so small and so efficient that it's below the detection limit," Slakey says. "Which creates an enormous proliferation challenge."
More than a dozen nations have tried at one time or another to develop laser enrichment technologies, Slakey says. Most gave up, but an Australian company called Silex has apparently succeeded.
That technology has been licensed to General Electric-Hitachi in the United States, and that company has applied for a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a plant.
In a recent opinion piece in Nature, Slakey and a colleague at the University of California, Irvine, asked the NRC to do something it normally doesn't do — decide whether to scuttle a technology altogether because of its proliferation risks.
Silex's Web site is here and the Nature article here. In related news, Mexico, the United States, and Canada announced an agreement today to convert a research reactor in Mexico from using highly-enriched uranium to one that can use a much lower grade.