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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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DOE Issues Plan to Ensure Access to Critical Materials
16 December 2010 3:42 pm
Ensuring the availability of rare earths and other strategic materials to the industries that need them would require giving the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) powers that it does not currently possess. That's one important message of a new DOE policy unveiled yesterday.
David Sandalow, DOE assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, said that the department's new Critical Materials Strategy recognizes that these materials have unique properties that make them essential to high-tech products such as computer screens and disk drives. But they are also important in advancing a clean-energy economy, he noted. The materials are essential for the magnets in the motors of wind turbines and electric vehicles, the batteries of electric vehicles, the thin-film semiconductors in photovoltaic cells, and the phosphors of high-efficiency fluorescent lighting.
The strategy identified five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium, and yttrium) as well as indium as "most critical in the short term," as measured by their importance to clean-energy technologies and the risk of supply disruption. Several recent expert reports have warned of the possibility of shortages, and China's apparent cutoff of supplies of rare earths to Japan in the wake of a territorial tiff earlier this year certainly got the attention of Congress and White House officials.
DOE's new strategy focuses on facilitating U.S. mining and processing of the critical materials, supporting research into alternatives, promoting more efficient use, and recycling. The report notes that some of its recommendations, such as research, fall squarely within DOE's core competencies. But others, such as permitting for mining, are beyond its jurisdiction. The report recommends increased international cooperation, particularly on research. It also noted that DOE lacks the authority to provide loan guarantees for the mining or processing of critical materials.
Legislators are eager to help find solutions, says Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, which authored legislation on the topic. "Our bipartisan bill would provide ready-made authority for many elements of DOE's strategy and would directly address the lack of authority for loan guarantees described in the new report," said Gordon, who retires next week after 26 years in Congress. "We should not lose sight of the report's comment that this is more than just a mining issue, and we must deal with the entire production, manufacturing, and recycling chain. " The House of Representatives approved the committee's bill (H.R. 6160) in September, but it failed to advance in the Senate.