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NRC Issues License For Laser Uranium Enrichment Plant 34

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lasers-make-everything-better dept.
Six years after being conceived, and after three years of regulatory review, the NRC has issued the operating license for the first commercial SILEX facility. This is just the final step in the multi-year approval process. There is still, however, a chance that the tech won't make it far: concerns over proliferation (due to the much smaller waste stream vs other enrichment processes) may lead to the NRC exercising its right to mothball further commercialization of the technology. Anyone interested in the long approval process should check out the NRC licensing page.
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NRC Issues License For Laser Uranium Enrichment Plant

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  • If they are that worried about proliferation from nuclear fuel reprocessing, they could just require the same levels of security on any material that might be usable for a weapon of some sort as they currently do on the 1000s of nuclear warheads that already exist in the USA.

    America has been making weapons-grade nuclear material for somewhere near 70 years now so I am sure they know how to keep it safe and out of the hands of the bad guys.

  • NRC bombs innovation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by exabrial (818005) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @01:36PM (#41452073)
    Nuclear power is incredibly important... in 1000 years, do you really think we're going to power the world with windmills? And while we need a body like the NRC as a safety watchdog, they need to be a lot more efficient. Keeping 60 year old nuclear plants open because new designs take eons to approve is callous and stupid.

    And honestly, proliferation should be a NRC concern. Give that to the DHS, they have nothing better to do.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      Why not run reactors that are 60 years old but still safe and putting out needed power?

      Just because something is old does not make it bad.

      • Because new designs are orders of magnitude safer and more efficient.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        Because they are fundamentally not as safe as modernized designs.

        Reference: Fukushima. Newer plants with modernized safety features (such as AP1000 or ESBWR) would have survived the tsunami without damage, as the diesel generators are no longer safety-critical in such designs.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Sure, but the reactors I am talking about are not going to be exposed to a tsunami.

          • They'll be exposed to something. Tornado, earthquake, hurricane. All of the US is threatened by at least one of those. All of those can cut the plant off from the grid and cut the backup generators from the main plant structure.

          • by zmooc (33175)

            The reactors were not really exposed to a tsunami. What caused the problem, was basically a loss of external power plus emergency power for just a bit too long, combined with a loss of cooling water and an emergency cooling system that turned out not to be built to spec.

            Also note that even though the plant was not really damaged by the earthquake, all kinds of problems were already occuring due to the emergency shutdown but BEFORE the tsunami struck!

            Numerous incidents other than a tsunami could cause simila

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Why not run reactors that are 60 years old but still safe and putting out needed power?

        Just because something is old does not make it bad.

        Because the older something is, the more likely it is to break, no matter how much maintenance it has (unless every single component has been replaced, which is unlikely or impossible for a nuclear plant). When that involves, say, a car, it's usually a minor inconvenience for you and maybe a handful of drivers on the highway. At worst, you crash and die and kill 3-4 other people. When it is a nuclear power plant, a breakdown at best causes a major headache as the power grid shuffles to find excess capacity

    • in 1000 years, do you really think we're going to power the world with windmills?

      In 1000 years, do you really think we're going to have nation states trying to secretly enrich uranium so they can obliterate their neighbors?

    • by cHiphead (17854)

      We'll power the world with whatever we can use that offers the best transfer of energy. Probably a hybrid of various technologies, even including a windmill. Why so dismissive right out of the gate?

    • by macraig (621737)

      In another millennium there wouldn't be any more fissile material left to burn. What, you wanna dig to the core and suck it from there? Yeah, that's a great way to prematurely shorten the habitable lifespan of the planet for future critters.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      in 1000 years, do you really think we're going to power the world with windmills?

      Wind can't do it, but solar most certainly can... And solar has innumerable advantages over nuclear, like smaller distributed generation, minimal security concerns, easy scale-up, nominal operating costs, etc. NASA doesn't seem to want to sell me an RTG to power my electric car, but companies are happy to sell me PV panels that'll fit, even if they can only really float-charge the battery pack.

      Liquid-sodium solar-thermal po

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @01:41PM (#41452187)

    Just in case you somehow don't know every Acronym on the planet.

    It must be one of those days I was thinking National Republican Congress.

  • Bring in the sharks!
  • The Patent Trolls would see to that.

    "You've been served!"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You mean they DON'T want a more efficient system because it might replace all the systems they already have? Since when was nuclear power about being anti-progress. You carry on with a that stupidity while I figure out how to make my cost effective anti-matter generator. Then we'll see who's so worried about making weapons grade uranium.

    Remember the WW2 days when every single factory deployed was refitted to be a factory making weapons, supplies or some other sort of war aid. Didn't we repeat the fact time

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      I'm not so sure that nuclear weapons lead to long, drawn out wars. We already have enough nukes to basically nuke every square inch of the planet. Do we need to have the ability to make more in a hurry, for some reason?

      I mean, with airplanes, and bullets, you expect a lot of attrition - planes get shot down pretty easily, and need to be replaced constantly throughout the war, because each side is basically "picking at the edges" of the enemy's territory.

      I wouldn't expect global nuclear war to last more than

  • America has been making weapons-grade nuclear material for somewhere near 70 years now so I am sure they know how to keep it safe and out of the hands of the bad guys.

    we've given nuclear warheads and material to a country that uses state sponsored terrorism [salon.com] and has attacked united states warships in the past. [wikipedia.org] it has not, nor will it ever sign the nuclear non proliferation treaty. [wikipedia.org]
    the only difference to recognize here is that at no point is the IAEA going to inspect any US facility.
    every INFCIRC [iaea.org] entered for the united states basically confirms that despite our running 'new war every four' policy, we get basically the same rubber-stamp report year after year. Th

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      "The same status is not enjoyed by Iran, whom if the US had their way would be tracking roentgens in the colon of every persian on earth."

      Ahh, the old "double standard/hypocrisy" argument. You know what, I've got absolutely no problem with that argument, because the United States and Iran are not the same thing.

      The United States is a Republic where the people can vote and change government. No, it's not perfect, but it basically respects human rights, free speech, freedom of religion, equal protection under

      • Actually they are not so dissimilar.

        The USA is a place where the people can elect the government. They only really have a choice between two parties, and from the outside they are very similar to each other on most major issues. (e.g. what's the difference between the two on foreign policy? The Republicans say "we are going to bomb you", and they do. The Democrats say "we are not going to bomb you", and they do.) While things like free speech are pretty good, to actually have a chance of reaching people wit

        • by JSBiff (87824)

          ""Mistreats minorities", what you mean like the way that non-white people in the USA still statistically are more likely to not be"

          No, I mean, "We have no problem with Gays in Iran like you do in the West."

          In the US, we are not perfect - but we largely acknowledge the problems, and are trying to work to resolve them. The US doesn't have to be perfect, in order for us to acknowledge that it is basically a good actor. Whereas Iran is a whole different story.

          You are missing the forest for the trees. Do you rea

          • People in the USA have no problem with LGBTQ people? Haha, good one. Yes there isn't systematic state oppression against gay people like there is in Iran. But Iran has much better treatment of transsexual people, including state sponsered sex change operations (all of this stemming from their crazy ideas about gay people, but still). In the USA (and many other countries), young gay people are still much more likely to be pushed to suicide by peers. A same-sex couple will still have a much harder time with a

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @04:04PM (#41454721) Homepage

    It's been over 60 years since the first A-bomb. Why doesn't everyone have one? Even third-rate powers have jet fighters.

    Building a bomb isn't that hard a job if you have enriched uranium. It's comparable to building an automobile engine - not easy, but a good racing shop could do it. Machining uranium can be done in a standard machine shop [osti.gov] with some extra precautions. (Plutonium is much worse.) Machining beryllium is probably more dangerous. Casting and X-raying the explosive lenses is tough, but it doesn't take a big shop. Generating the 1ns rise time power pulse to fire the explosives is a lot easier than it was in the tube era. Between what the US and the USSR have published, there are few secrets left about low-end bomb design.

    Gaseous diffusion plants are huge. Oak Ridge [wikipedia.org] Novouralsk. [google.com] Drome, France [google.com]. Those things are the size of big steel mills. Entire "nuclear cities" were built around them. Only major countries could afford them.

    Then came centrifuge plants. Here's one in the US. URENCO USA. [google.com] It looks like a big data center, just some big commercial buildings and a parking lot. It's on the outskirts of a town in New Mexico, along with some other unrelated industries. Any reasonably successful country, or even a big company, can afford a centrifuge plant. URENCO is on their third generation of centrifuges, and price/performance improves with each generation. Now countries like India and Pakistan were able to get into the game.

    Laser enrichment will reduce the scale even further. Lawerence Livermore had laser enrichment working in the 1990s, but it wasn't cost-effective. Now it is. A laser enrichment plant is a modest operation, perhaps a quarter of the size of a centrifuge plant of the same capacity.

    All these processes are multi-stage, with each stage doing some separation and feeding a slightly more concentrated product into the next state. The minimum plant size before you get anything is still reasonably big.

    There's work going on towards single-stage laser separation systems. That's a worry, because a very small plant, over time, could enrich enough uranium for a bomb. So far, if anyone knows how to make that work, they're not saying much. But eventually it will be figured out.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Handy thing about plutonium is that it's produced by irradiating non-enriched uranium, and is much easier to seperate chemically.

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