Lasers May Make Nuclear Power More Efficient (and Bombs Easier to Make)

G.E. is currently experimenting with a new lased-based technology that could make nuclear enrichment much easier. This would be a boon to nuclear power, but would also make nuclear-based weapons easier to make.

"'The threat is there,' says Edwin Lyman, a nuclear nonproliferation expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a research and advocacy group in Cambridge, Mass. 'If [GE-Hitachi] succeeds in overcoming remaining technological hurdles, the resulting laser-enrichment would be extremely vulnerable to proliferation. It's also a technology that several countries would likely pursue.'

Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, is worried about SILEX too. 'If it works, it has enormous industrial implications with the US perhaps bringing back all the enrichment services it has lost to Europe and Russia,' he says.

'But how long can you keep this process secret and out of the hands of proliferators? That's the real question.'

The US Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear power, is not worried.

'Any program to build additional enrichment facilities in the United States will be evaluated for its safety, environmental, and nonproliferation characteristics before it is licensed to operate,' the DOE said in a statement responding to Monitor queries."

Full Story: Will lasers brighten nuclear’s future?

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