a SILEX facility could make it much easier for a rogue state to clandestinely enrich weapons grade uranium to create nuclear bombs
SILEX could become America’s proliferation Fukushima,
Controversial nuclear technology alarms watchdogs http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/controversial-nuclear-technology-alarms-watchdogs/18138 By David Worthington | July 30, 2012 A controversial nuclear technology is raising alarms bells among critics who claim it may be better suited for making nuclear weapons than lowering the cost of nuclear power and could lead to a nonproliferation “Fukushima” for the United States.
SILEX (separation of isotopes by laser excitation) is a method for enriching uranium with lasers. It was developed by Australian scientists during the mid 1990’s as a way to reduce the cost of nuclear fuel, because uranium must be processed before it can be used to generate power.
The scientists formed Silex Systems to license the technology for commercialization, and that process is still ongoing. In 2000, the governments of Australia and the United States signed a treaty, giving the U.S. authority to review whether SILEX should be deployed. That’s because there could be a major proliferation problem. SILEX reduces the steps necessary to transform fuel grade uranium into to weapons-grade uranium, and the process doesn’t create telltale chemical or thermal emissions, according to an article published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. R. Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, has the byline. Read more »
a tension between the United States’ goal of safely commercializing nuclear-power technology and its efforts to control the proliferation of nuclear materials. ”When there’s a conflict, generally speaking, the policy to spread nuclear technology overrides the non-proliferation policy.”
Laser-based uranium enrichment plant sparks controversy 07/05/2012 Laser Focus World by Gail Overton Senior Editor Washington, DC–A July 4 Nature news story from Sharon Weinberger says that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to open a plant that uses laser-based uranium enrichment will be considered in private. Although the controversial laser uranium-enrichment technology is on the cusp of making it cheaper to create fuel for nuclear power plants, some non-proliferation experts are concerned that the efficiency of the laser-based technology will also smooth the path for bomb makers. Read more »
The Seoul Nuclear Summit, The National Interest, JAN-FEB 2012, Miles A. Pomper, Michelle E. Dover , January 4, 2012 “……. [In 2010] The White House announced that fifty-four national commitments were made by twenty-nine countries. These included pledges to donate money to the IAEA, remove or secure nuclear material, prevent nuclear smuggling, ratify or support existing conventions and treaties, and convert reactors from running on nuclear-weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) to safer low-enriched uranium (LEU).
The last promise was particularly important. Unlike its cousin, plutonium, HEU is suitable for use in the simplest kind of nuclear weapon, a so-called “gun-type” bomb. In gun-type devices, one subcritical piece of fissile material is fired at another subcritical target. Together they form a critical mass and spark a chain reaction. The process is so simple and well understood that such a device does not need to be explosively tested; even the first such bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, was not tested prior to its use. Terrorists who acquired a sufficient quantity of HEU would not need to be backed by the scientific and financial resources of a state to construct such a nuclear device. Read more »
many of the good things GE is using to make a case about Silex—less use of resources and electricity and increased efficiency—are actually negatives that make it easier for rogue states to hide clandestine plants…..methods for the production and use of nuclear materials that would be more difficult to detect,” the report states
New Uranium Enrichment Technology Alarms Aviation Week, By Kristin Majcher Washington 23 Nov 11 General Electric says it has successfully tested a faster, cheaper way to produce nuclear reactor fuel, and is planning to commercialize the technology by building a facility in Wilmington, N.C. While the prospect of saving resources to generate energy at a lower price sounds like a breakthrough, scientists are concerned that the top-secret method of enrichment that GE is using will indirectly elevate proliferation risks around the world, thus inspiring rogue states to develop their own laser enrichment facilities for nuclear weapons.
The enrichment technology is the Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation (Silex). It was developed by Silex of Australia in 1992. The technology company USEC funded early research on Silex, but abandoned it in favor of focusing on centrifuge enrichment. In 2006, GE signed an exclusive agreement to commercialize and license the technology and spearhead further research and development.
Although Silex is the only known method of laser enrichment that works and could be commercially viable, scientists are concerned because many countries have funded laser-enrichment projects. According to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, more than 20 countries have researched laser isotope separation techniques, including China, India, Iraq, Russia, Japan and Pakistan. Although they were unsuccessful, scientists say that putting Silex back into the public eye, regardless of the safeguards GE promises, poses a problem. Showing that it works could renew efforts by countries to develop the process. Read more »
What is uranium enrichment?, Factbox, by David Cutler, 27 Dec 10, “…….WHAT IS ENRICHMENT:– Enrichment is a process of increasing the proportion of fissile isotope found in uranium ore (represented by the symbol ‘U’) to make it usable as nuclear fuel or the compressed, explosive core of nuclear weapons. Read more »
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