Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Centrifuge May Be Superseded by Laser Enrichment

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the poom-poom-bang-kapow-lasers dept.

346

An anonymous reader writes "Australian scientists have discovered, after a decade of tests, a new way to enrich uranium for use in power plants." From the article: "There are at present only two methods for sifting uranium atoms, or isotopes, to create the right mix. One, called diffusion, involves forcing uranium through filters. Being lighter, U-235 passes through more easily and is thus separated from its heavier counterpart. The second method, widely adopted in the 1970s, uses centrifuges to spin the heavier and lighter atoms apart. Both, said Dr Goldsworthy, are 'very crude. You have to repeat the process over and over,' consuming enormous amounts of electricity. The spinning method requires 'thousands and thousands of centrifuges'."

cancel ×

346 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

FP (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423888)

First post!

Re:FP (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424002)

But in a laser, the Uranians can't go "Wheeeeeeeeee!".

No, I'm just joking, I really do love the Uranian people.

Re:FP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424049)

i now want to hear the joke to which that is the punchline...

Re:FP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424072)

Err, sorry, there is no associated joke. It all came to me in one of those "Phew I've just spent the first 15 minutes of the day working so I relax for the rest of my 6 hour workday"-moments.

o YEah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423890)

First Post

hot potato. literally. (0)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423903)

Damn. Combine this with Brazil's uranium export programme [scidev.net] , and you've got yourself the ultimate political hot potato.

Re:hot potato. literally. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423920)

You've got yourself the ultimate political hot potato.

No Kidding! From TFA:

Dr Goldsworthy said that, due to regulation, "we report to the Government regularly".

Dr Goldsworthy is a regular reporter of the highest degree. OTH I wonder what Iran would pay for his services right now?

Re:hot potato. literally. (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423971)

Iran doesn't need to use frickin' laserbeams; the CIA [guardian.co.uk] , the Office of the Vice President [thewashingtonnote.com] and your apparently uncontrollable 'ally' the ISI [newyorker.com] have gone out of their way to make sure that Iran develops enough scary technology to*
  • allow construction of valuable Caspian pipelines
  • keep Halliburton and Bechtel's stocks higher than Timothy Leary
  • threaten the security of the West
*delete as appropriate

Re:hot potato. literally. (2, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423923)

Bingo. One can make a strong arguement for nuclear power. It is efficient and clean. Yet we don't seem to want to let anyone have it because it might be a cover for nuclear weapons. What to do?

I think the solution is to put butt-loads of funding into bringing fuel cell technology to the forefront.

Re:hot potato. literally. (5, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423963)

Fuel cells will do nothing about the demand for power stations. Anyways, this makes fuel for nuclear plants even cheaper, and it's already a 'negligable' cost for the operation of a plant.

I say we build so many nuke plants in 'trustworthy'(IE already nuclear) countries that we're buying all the fuel just to feed all the darn things. ;)

Realistically, it's going to be impossible to prevent any country that wants nuclear weapons from getting them. I'm kinda suprised that we've done as well as we have, as all it takes is a country going 'screw you' and building the stuff themselves. We know it can be done with cutting edge 1940's level technology, and it's been over 60 years. Even countries like Iran have reached the point where they can do it with domestic industry if they truly wanted to.

Re:hot potato. literally. (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424003)

We have a power station in Nebraska that operates off fuel cell technology.

Re:hot potato. literally. (1)

Wooster_UK (963894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424145)

What kind of mad, crazy system *is* that? The usual way of getting hydrogen is to split it off water; that takes electrical power. And what's the result? You recombine the hydrogen with oxygen to get water and, er, electrical power. Naturally, you're going to get less electrical power out than you put in.

Re:hot potato. literally. (2, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424146)

Where are you getting the fuel then?

Hydrogen doesn't occur naturally in pure form - it's always combined with something else, like a hydrocarbon chain, or water. To run a fuel cell you either have to:

1) Use hydrocarbons as your fuel source. This is environmentally little different from using a standard internal combustion engine. You're still using natural gas, or possibly some other fossil fuel.

2) Use water electrolysis to get hydrogen. This requires loads of electricity. This in turn means that your hydrogen "fuel" is actually a power storage medium like a battery. You cannot run a power plant this way.

Got a link to the nebraska plant? I'd bet good money they're using option #1, and if they are, then they haven't weaned themselves of fossil fuels.

Option #2 is the only way to use truely "green" fuel cells, but it also requires a source of clean electricity - such as fusion - or else you're just moving the source of pollution from a tailpipe to a power plant.

Re:hot potato. literally. (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424041)

Realistically, it's going to be impossible to prevent any country that wants nuclear weapons from getting them.
Hear hear - India and Pakistan did it, North Korea did it (gulp), Japan could do it (or already has) if it weren't like, the world's biggest taboo there for obvious reasons, South Africa and Brazil came within a cunt hair of doing it (the former with Israeli backing), Israel did it by cheating - their enriched uranium was donated by a certain country, as were the designs, West Germany was on the verge of doing it, and of course the US, UK, France, China, Russia all did it as part of the Great Game.

It's one hell of a genie to have let out of the bottle.

hot potatoe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424018)

And put Dan Quayle in charge and you've gone one huge hot potatoe

True cost of nuclear...? (3, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423906)

So does anybody have a figure for how much energy is used, how much CO2 is produced and how much other waste is produced in order to generate a kW/h of nuclear power?

Objective answers - rather than pro-nukular or anti-nuclear spin - preferred (some hope!)

Re:True cost of nuclear...? (1)

w.timmeh (906406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423943)

I'm anti nuclear-spin. Damned angular momentum!

Re:True cost of nuclear...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423947)

A nuclear power plant produces about 0.4 % of the amount of CO2 that a coal power plant of the same size would produce over their entire lifespans. That's including all the CO2 produced during mining of the uranium/coal, processing it and building the plants.

Re:True cost of nuclear...? (5, Informative)

DemoLiter3 (704469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423954)

No problem : here you have an emissions comparison for all widespread methods and various pollutants

http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=2&catid=260 [nei.org]

Re:True cost of nuclear...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424130)

I wish the figures included more details regarding the long term disposal of the waste. Anybody know where such details can be found?

MOX Anyone? (3, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423966)

The first generation of nuclear reactors in the UK (Magnox) used natural (i.e. unenriched) uranium metal as fuel.

This meant that the fuel was very cheap to make but the fuel cans had to have a low neutron capture cross-section, hence the Magnox. This limited the temperatures at which the reactors could operate.

Moving to enriched uranium allowed the use of stainless steel cladding which keeps its integrity to much higher temperatures and is mechanically stronger.

There have been many developments in nuclear fuel technology since the 1950s, as one might expect. MOX was a good idea, but derailed by BNFL corporate incompetence and "environmentalist" hysteria.

The idea with MOX is that, instead of enriching uranium to increase the proportion of fissile U-235, you mix in fissile plutonium recovered from used nuclear fuel which is then "burnt up" in the new fuel to provide power. Plutonium isotopes are natural byproducts of the nuclear reactions in fission reactors.

Perhaps it would be more economical and environmentally-friendly to use more MOX than enriching fresh uranium?

Re:MOX Anyone? (1)

necaris (941652) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424080)

As far as I'm aware, fissile plutonium doesn't always come out of the process - it needs to be a specific type of reactor, with enriched fuel, to "breed" plutonium...

Re:MOX Anyone? (3, Informative)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424210)

As far as I'm aware, fissile plutonium doesn't always come out of the process - it needs to be a specific type of reactor, with enriched fuel, to "breed" plutonium...

That's not true. In conventional nuclear reactors, the plutonium naturally produced is fissile, or at least a substantial proportion of it is. This gives rise to the "moderator coefficient of reactivity" in thermal reactors where an increase in moderator temperature brings about a proportional increase in the number of neutrons with the correct energy spectrum to cause fission in the plutonium. This is a form of neutron resonance.

This is why Magnox and AGR reactors are "positive feedback" systems.

When a Magnox reactor is new, there is no plutonium, so there is no plutonium fission, so for the first few months of operation, the reactor is negative feedback.

In AGRs, the moderator temperature is kept constant by running the cold coolant gas through the moderator prior to cooling the fuel, so AGRs are negative feedback (and hence stable) as long as the moderator temperature is kept constant, which is achieved by active safety systems.

PWRs, on the other hand, are light-water moderated. They are effectively under-moderated and are epi-thermal reactors. They are negative-feedback since any increase in the moderator temperature (water) causes it to expand, reducing its density and hence the amount of moderation. As long as you can keep pressurised water flowing around a PWR it is stable.

In a previous life I worked in Reactor Physics at a nuclear power station.

Re:True cost of nuclear...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424032)

Bssst, wrong question.
Why does USA need to produce any when they can import from China or old Russia, cheaper? Subsidies, or the need to produce/play with other elements?.

Funny how new plants are being built, but not one for treating existing nuclear waste.

Then there is the cost of mega toxic separation plants, that are BIG, and glow hot, and give workers heavy metal health issues. Lucky DOE has found a way to export metal 'scrap' from these plants to third world countries.

Laser or plasma separation could be used to treat nuclear waste. This is where the research money should be going.
Synrock and glass encapulation of nuclear waste is not happening, as it is cheaper to do nothing, or dump it in 44 gallon drums in deep ocean.

Laser separation could also be used to assay mislabeled 'waste', as there is a tendency to blend it, as some unnatural elements burn in air, which may reveal, cheating. Maybe this is why breeder reactors are unpopular.

Re:True cost of nuclear...? (2, Informative)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424177)

So does anybody have a figure for how much energy is used, how much CO2 is produced and how much other waste is produced in order to generate a kW/h of nuclear power?

Just to nitpick, it's a kWh, not kW/h. That would make it a Joule/second/hour.

This is Not "nuclear power," this is AUS Nuclear (3, Informative)

Vexar (664860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424208)

Okay, TFA is talking about Uranium 235, which is a weapons-grade isotope of Uranium, because it is fissile. Furthermore, this is necessary only because Australia uses Light Water Reactors. Fast Neutron Reactors and several other of the dozens of reactor designs do not need enrichment and work just fine off the naturally occurring U238.

If you read up on the Gen-4 reactor designs, you'll find that greenhouse gasses, non-proliferation, safety, and more efficient designs (a LWR reactor is rather wasteful on the scale of designs) have been taken into consideration. Rest assured that the new reactors being built in Florida, and all across the USA are being built with the best, safest technologies available.

Oh, and the thousands of centrifuges? That's just bad journalism. I don't know how lasers are cheaper at all (someone needs to actually write a decent article here), but for what it is worth, Nuclear Energy in the United States is cheaper than coal, but just barely.

Check out www.nukeworker.com and ask your questions there. Those guys know their Uranium from their belly buttons!

Laser enrichment isn't new (3, Informative)

charlie (1328) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423909)

It's been around for over 20 years [thebulletin.org] . What's new is that the Aussies appear to be commercialising it [uic.com.au] .

Re:Laser enrichment isn't new (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423916)

Wrong. It has been around, but has not been competitive with centrifuges. Aussies
are perfecting the technology. General Electric are commercialising it.

Re:Laser enrichment isn't new (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424067)

So you're claiming they have been testing the technology for decades, very interesting. I'm sure they should update the article summary to reflect this.

Re:Laser enrichment isn't new (2, Funny)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424077)

Why Australia first, you say? Well, they've got all those sharks they're goin to need.

Parent has excellent links. Silex web site. (2, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424180)

MOD PARENT UP!!! Excellent links.

Quote from the first linked article: "In MLIS, an infrared laser is directed at uranium hexafluoride gas. The laser excites uranium 235 hexafluoride gas, while not disturbing the uranium 238 hexafluoride gas."

In 1972 or 1973, I built an apparatus to test whether a flowing gas carbon monoxide laser could excite uranium 235 hexafluoride. My little project was shut down without explanation.

The Silex web site [silex.com.au] gives almost no information. The "about Silex" [silex.com.au] web page misspells the word neutrons as "neutrins".

It could be that the U.S. government has been successful at laser enrichment, but has published misleading information about the project. The article linked by Slashdot [smh.com.au] says, "One US effort involving 500 scientists gave up after spending $2 billion." That doesn't make sense. You know very early, without spending a lot of money, whether you have a laser tuned to the right frequency.

--
Taxpayer Karma: If you contribute money to kill people, expect your own quality of life to diminish.

What about Brazil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423911)

Don't they have some improved enrichment method?

Iran has LAZERZ OMGZWTFBBQ !!!!111 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423913)

Iran has LAZERZ ! PEWPEWPEW !
Call in teh marinez !

A question? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423914)

Do you know where I can find detailed information about that new method?

Kisses,
Ahmadinejad

That's so typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423915)

It really pisses me off that we, Australians, invent so much stuff and then just sell it off for a quick buck to some foreign company rather than commercialising is ourselves. The Australian government has got a lot to answer for.

In other news (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423931)

In other news, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just announced that the Jews will be pushed into the sea sooner than expected.

Short on details? (3, Insightful)

saforrest (184929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423932)

If this is really so novel and useful, surely an analysis of it exists that is not written by the guy trying to sell it!

The article goes on to explain that six other countries have tried laser-enrichment schemes and failed, but this effort has succeeded, and the only possible hint at why is that this new approach is that it is more "elegant and sophisticated".

Even a link to the press release [world-nuclear.org] would have provided a bit more information (though more legalistic than technical).

Oh goody (2, Interesting)

TopSpin (753) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423935)

The post mentions diffusion and centripetal enrichment. There is actually a third method that has been used by several nations. The "calutron" separates isotopes using a magnetic field. It is the least efficient and most expensive method, so it is uncommon. However, it was used by the Manhattan Project and Saddam had an array running in Iraq at one time.

Making Uranium enrichment easy is not necessary a good thing. Uranium ore isn't hard to get. Enriching it is the tough part. The same processes used to make fuel lead directly to gun-type "atom" bombs. It's just a matter of degree and some machining.

Get this process down to something small enough to quietly function in a barn and you could build a weapon inside the borders of your target. A gold mine or somesuch would be all you need for cover.

Re:Oh goody (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423962)

Yes, so lets stop all research and development in everything because one day, someone might kill you with the end result. Head, meet sand.

Re:Oh goody (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423973)

Get this process down to something small enough to quietly function in a barn and you could build a weapon inside the borders of your target. A gold mine or somesuch would be all you need for cover.

Your idea is crazy, but is it crazy enough to be...oh shit.

Re:Oh goody (1)

CajunReaper (977682) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424136)

A really good read about how close you can come to making your own breeder reactor is Atomic Boy Scout. CajunReaper

Ssshhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423936)

Just don't tell the Iranians about this

Re:Ssshhh... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424046)

I think that if they have half decent scientists, they knew about it for many years. I wonder if they had a way to stealthily build an enrichment chain without international control, or if they are not currently building it.

BTW, they will manage to get the bomb. North Korea too, Afghanistan too, one day, every country will have its nuclear weapons. We can delay the Iranian bomb by 5-10 years maybe, but what then ? Isn't it time to have a political plan about the question ? Preferably before it becomes possible for a grade student to make a nuke as a school project ...

Re:Ssshhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424121)

I don't know what you're so worried about. As the NRA has demonstrated time and again, nuclear weapons don't kill people, people kill people.

Thank God that, in the U.S., people still have a constitutional right to carry weapons of mass destruction. Well, in some states you have to make sure they aren't concealed, and there's a 3-day waiting period, but other than that...

Oh, wait, this is 2006, isn't it? Damn, I forgot to change the temporal zone. Forget to synch to the atomic clock and Windows 3006 thinks it's back in the 21st century again! Stupid Y3K bugs.

Centrifuges (3, Insightful)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423937)

The spinning method requires 'thousands and thousands of centrifuges'.
Unless you're Iran, in which case only 50 centrifuges is enough to put you "a few months away" from a nuclear weapon, according to Olmert. Or, y'know, 10 years at best, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate. Of course, powers within Iran that are more relevant than Ahmedinejad have declared that atomic weaponry is unislamic and issued a fatwa against gaining them, and Ahmedinejad isn't the head of the military anyway. But look! Over there! They're making Jews wear yellow ribbons! Quick, bomb them!

Sigh.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423960)

Unless you're Iran, in which case only 50 centrifuges is enough to put you "a few months away" from a nuclear weapon, according to Olmert. Or, y'know, 10 years at best, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate.

I would be significantly more likely to trust the Israeli intelligence services than the American, particularly after the Iraq fiasco. I think it's generally accepted that Israel has one of if not the best intelligence services in the world.

(Before anybody says it, I'm aware that the Israelis were very happy to nod in agreement with everything we said about Iraq--whether that was because they believed it or because they just wanted us to do it is up for debate.)

That is not to say, of course, that I trust either.

Re:Centrifuges (3, Interesting)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423991)

The manner in which Mossad tricked the US into attacking Libya was described in detail by former Mossad case worker Victor Ostrovsky in "The Other Side of Deception," the second of two revealing books he wrote after he left Israel's foreign intelligence service. The story began in February 1986, when Israel sent a team of navy commandos in miniature submarines into Tripoli to land and install a "Trojan," a six-foot-long communications device, in the top floor of a five-story apartment building. The device, only seven inches in diameter, was capable of receiving messages broadcast by Mossad's LAP (LohAma Psicologit-psychological warfare or disinformation section) on one frequency and automatically relaying the broadcasts on a different frequency used by the Libyan government.

The commandos activated the Trojan and left it in the care of a lone Mossad agent in Tripoli who had leased the apartment and who had met them at the beach in a rented van. "By the end of March, the Americans were already intercepting messages broadcast by the Trojan," Ostrovsky writes.

"Using the Trojan, the Mossad tried to make it appear that a long series of terrorist orders were being transmitted to various Libyan embassies around the world," Ostrovsky continues. As the Mossad had hoped, the transmissions were deciphered by the Americans and construed as ample proof that the Libyans were active sponsors of terrorism. What's more, the Americans pointed out, Mossad reports confirmed it. "The French and the Spanish, though, were not buying into the new stream of information. To them it seemed suspicious that suddenly, out of the blue, the Libyans, who had been extremely careful in the past, would start advertising their future actions. The French and the Spanish were right. The information was bogus."

Ostrovsky wrote: "Operation Trojan was one of the Mossad's greatest successes. It brought about the airstrike on Libya that President Reagan had promised -- a strike that had three important consequences. First, it derailed a deal for the release of the American hostages in Lebanon, thus preserving the Hezbollah as the No. 1 enemy in the eyes of the West. Second, it sent a message to the entire Arab world, telling them exactly where the United States stood regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Third, it boosted the Mossad's image, since it was they who, by ingenious sleight of hand, had prodded the United States to [bomb Libya]"

To blame the US intelligence services for the Iraq war is to believe that Rumsfeld and Cheney didn't want to go to war, that they felt they had to because of the intelligence. The truth is that they made sure that Bush and others only got intelligence that suppprted their pre-determined outcome of 'regime change', no matter how poorly sourced it was.

It's your typical Republican MO - break an agency, then point at it and say "look, it's broken! Abolish it all!". See also; FEMA.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424007)

and Social Security, and Public education, and well, just about everything.

no it's not. (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424056)

It's "drown it in a bathtub." :)

Which is why it became a pretty good anti-Republican response, superimposed on images of Katrina-damaged areas.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423975)

This is /., so I'm not surprised, but you've missed the context. The "thousands and thousands of centrifuges" are to enrich uranium for power generation, not for nuclear weapons. A single bomb requires on the order of 10kg of enriched uranium. A large power station requires on the order of 25,000kg p.a. (source [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:Centrifuges (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424004)

A single bomb required uranium enriched to around 85% u238, which takes a system of a thousand or more cascading centrifuges many, many weeks.

Power plants require uranium to be enriched to around the 4% mark, which takes fewer centrifuges and less time - as someone more qualified than I said when Iran announced its enrichment achievements, "Iran Now Capable of Making Glow in the Dark Watch Hands"

Re:Centrifuges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424010)

This is /., so I'm not surprised, but you've missed the context. Making weapons grade uranium (U235 > 85%) is waay harder than making 'uranium fuel' (U235 < 3%).

Re:Centrifuges (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423979)

Or you've been working on it for years. Sure, the USA might have thousands of centrifuges, but we also built thousands of nukes over the years. If it takes a 'thousand centrifuge years' to process enough for one nuke, then it'd take Iran 20 years to make one.

Of course, the questions of efficiency, size of intended nuke, processing rate, how much people believe that Iran has 'only' 50 centrifuges(we've been wrong before!) have some importance as well.

Oh, and it's not just the Jews that are to wear 'ribbons', it's chritians as well. Patch sewn onto clothing. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Honestly, I'm reminded of a pair of gorillas getting into a dominance display, beating their chests. I wish everyone would take a step back, calm down, and get back to negotiating. I wish the progressive Iranian youths I've been hearing about will step up and at least reduce the theocracy that's developed.

Re:Centrifuges (4, Insightful)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423999)

The clothing thing is a hoax, a lie, disinformation to be endlessly repeated, half-remembered and alluded to even long after it's been proven bogus.

Re:Centrifuges (3, Interesting)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424019)

how much people believe that Iran has 'only' 50 centrifuges(we've been wrong before!)
Umm, you mean about Iraq? You do realise that we were "wrong" on purpose, and totally the other way - mobile biological labs turned out to be weather balloon inflating equipment, fertilizer factories were labelled as anthrax factories and the weapons located "around baghdad and tikrit, north, east, west and south somewhat" (to quote Von Rumsfeld).. didn't exist.

Plus, it would have been a lot easier to keep track of what equipment Iran was buying if Dick Cheney hadn't knowingly outed a covert CIA agent tasked with Iranian counterproliferation as political retribution against her husband.

Re:Centrifuges (3, Informative)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424070)

"Oh, and it's not just the Jews that are to wear 'ribbons', it's chritians as well. Patch sewn onto clothing. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?"

Ya, it does sound familiar... [yahoo.com]

Re:Centrifuges (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424012)

From Debka:

"Russian experts completed the initial plans in 2003 and construction began in early 2004. In late 2005, Bulgarian transport planes delivered tens of thousands of centrifuges from Belarus and Ukraine; they were transported directly to Neyshabour. In January 2006, 23 Ukrainian engineers arrived to start installing the equipment, joined in February by 46 Belarusian nuclear experts who are working in shifts to prepare the 155,000 P-1 and P-2 centrifuges for operation.
This compares with 60,000 in Nathanz - of which 40,000 are accessible for inspection while 20,000 are hidden in closed subterranean chambers. "

Now, I'm fully aware that this isn't necessary true or correct and I'm also aware that it doesn't automatically confer nuclear weapons capability onto Iran. However given the sorts of rhetoric coming from Iran is does make me uneasy...

Especially given the mood in the US these days.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424027)

40,000 are available for inspection by whom? The IAEA? They must have forgotten to mention them.

Your quote makes zero sense - do you have any idea how much stabilised power you'd need to run 155,000 centrifuges for weeks? The IAEA (and the US) watches all ex-Soviet nuke equipment so closely you probably couldn't clean them without there being a note made in 15 different databases, but they managed to fly 155,000 centrifuges to Iran without anyone noticing?

Your point appears to be that anyone can pull anything out of their ass and it will make you uneasy - you're buying into it...

Re:Centrifuges (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424074)

The IAEA to my knowledge are the only ones who do nuclear inspections and as far as I can tell they included the inspections of that facility in their public reports.

I didn't quote anything about Iran moving anything without anyone noticing. Did you feel the need to just make that up?

Anyway as I mentioned in my previous post I do not completely believe this data and do not encourage anyone else to (I have been unable to verify the quantities listed).

So I gather you have no other point... outside of just being an asshole.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424119)

My point was exactly that the IAEA haven't reported on 40,000 centrifuges - your quote said "open to inspection", I was wondering by whom.

"In late 2005, Bulgarian transport planes delivered tens of thousands of centrifuges from Belarus and Ukraine; they were transported directly to Neyshabour." - sounds like moving stuff to me

My point was that you are quick to quote what is obviously complete bullshit, and then say it makes you uneasy - even though, yes, you said it was unproven.

Re:Centrifuges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424020)

Iran could just BUY enriched uranium off the world market cheaply and controversey free, instead of spending billions on making their own enrichment facilities. Also notice how well protected some of those sites are, and how Iran has not been so forthcoming on the details of their 'research'.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424034)

Iran could just BUY enriched uranium off the world market cheaply and controversey free
Yeah, I hear Abdul's House of WMD has a special on it right now, actually.

Jesus Howard Christ

Is that you, Doug? [jameswolcott.com]

Re:Centrifuges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424053)

Of course, powers within Iran that are more relevant than Ahmedinejad have declared that atomic weaponry is unislamic and issued a fatwa against gaining them

Not trying to troll here but interested. Would you have some reference for that?

Re:Centrifuges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424106)

Would you have some reference for that?

It's found here [iran-daily.com] .

Go ahead and read that, then take a swing by this [telegraph.co.uk] .

Fatawa are the theocratic equivalent of diplomatic policy statements; they mutate as required by whatever banana republic issues them. Useful idiots like the grandparent selectively chose their preferred version.

Re:Centrifuges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424170)

I'm aware that a fatwa can be issued by far too many people to make conclusions about what actually happens in Iraq. But regardless of the current postion i find it interesting that there even was some fatwa against using nukes a year ago. Hmm, did the Telegraph run a story about that one too? Yeah, didn't think so...

Re:Centrifuges (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424213)

Useful idiot yourself.

Did I write a long entry explaining the intracacies of fatwa? No, I just said that one was issued - I was demonstrating the nuances and opaqueness of any situation, not saying LOOK A FATWA HAHA STUPID AMERICANS IRAN IS GOOD REALLY.

Please don't invent my motives out of whole coth to suit your rebuttal.

Re:Centrifuges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424055)

50 centrifuges
 
...is more than sufficient to seed the engineering necessary to make more. You don't know how many they are operating. Please don't assert your number as credible.

National Intelligence Estimate

You're citing a product of US Intelligence regarding the state the WMD in the middle east?

declared that atomic weaponry is unislamic

Fatawa are often contradictory [telegraph.co.uk] , depending on political requirements. Wikipedia is not a good primary source for this sort of thing, mkay?

Sigh.

Iran is a net exporter of fossil fuels. They have more gas and oil that they know what to do with. They're making nuclear weapons. Please pull your Daily Show educated head out of your ass.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

blackpaw (240313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424081)

Actually US Intelligence was remarkably accurate on WMD in IRAQ. Its was the Bush admin that was out in wacko land.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

guacamole (24270) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424094)

They're making Jews wear yellow ribbons!Quick, bomb them!



I am not certain if this form of discrimination warrants an air strike, but certainly, it would make this the country that practices it a sort of Pariah in the minds of the civilized world.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424176)


Of course, powers within Iran that are more relevant than Ahmedinejad have declared that atomic weaponry is unislamic and issued a fatwa against gaining them, and Ahmedinejad isn't the head of the military anyway. But look! Over there! They're making Jews wear yellow ribbons! Quick, bomb them!

Sigh.


Ah, you're one of those people saying "as long as there is no direct (nuclear) threat to myself, I don't care about public profiling and second class treatment of others". (Jews, but also Christians, gays and women.)

Sigh.

Re:Centrifuges (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424206)

The story was a lie, it was based entirely on fiction. I nearly pointed this out in the post but assumed that most people would know this by now - unfortunately I forgot just how good this sort of black psy-ops is at percolating into the Conventional Wisdom.

Is it just me? (1, Insightful)

JohnBeaulieu (922965) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423945)

The whole frightens me. It seems absolutey crazy to encourage the use of nuclear fission in an atmosphere. There are to many things that can go wrong not to mention that there is no proven safe way as of yet to deal with the waste permanently. Instead of finding new ways to enrich uranium wouldn't it be better to focus on that 7 nation project to produce fusion power? Cold fusion may be a pipe dream but normal fusion isn't.

Re:Is it just me? (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423977)

It seems absolutey crazy to encourage the use of nuclear fission in an atmosphere. There are to many things that can go wrong not to mention that there is no proven safe way as of yet to deal with the waste permanently.

There is a lot of radioactive material in brown coal. A power station is one of the best ways to distribute it in the atnosphere.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424114)

No. There is close to no radioactive material in brown coal. But if you burn a vast amount of brown coal, close to no becomes a non-trivial amount. Or, as a manner of speaking, we're already surrounded by a lot of radioactive material. From what I know, there have been no indications that the radioactive trace are more dangerous in the athmosphere as put there by the power plant. This is openly admitted in the one or two articles that often make the rounds on Slashdot. I'd wager most other emissions are a more imminent threat. That said, brown coal is pretty horrible stuff.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

TummyX (84871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423981)


The whole frightens me. It seems absolutey crazy to encourage the use of nuclear fission in an atmosphere.


What exactly is wrong with nuclear fission for power generation? You make it sound like it's burnt in an open fire. Care to explain what you mean by "in an atmosphere"?


There are to many things that can go wrong not to mention that there is no proven safe way as of yet to deal with the waste permanently


What are these "many things" that can go wrong and why are they worse than the numerous coal mine accidents and huge amounts of uranium that is released by burning coal in the atmosphere.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424029)

Fusion is not a pipe dream but it won't be available as a major power source until at least 50 years, so we'll probably have to build another two generations of fission plants.
To misuse a common analogy, electricity was discovered centuries before the electric bulb was invented. Trying to improve candlelight in the meantime was far from a bad idea.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

Zaatxe (939368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424134)

It seems absolutey crazy to encourage the use of nuclear fission in an atmosphere.

It also seems absolutely crazy to encourage the use of power sources that throw tons of greenhouse gases in an atmosphere every day. Seems like "global warming" or something like that.

Good news! (0)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423958)

Just what the world needed. A faster, cheaper, simpler way of making atomic weapons.

Somebody please spread the word when the technology is fast, cheap and simple enough to fit in a garage and a hobbyist budget. So I can move to the mountains.

Doomsday Clock (1)

Sqreater (895148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15423967)

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists should advance its Doomsday Clock toward midnight. The cheaper enrichment of nuclear bomb isotopes just advances the entropic spread of nuclear weapons and increases the likelihood of a nuclear detonation or war.

It is ironically funny that they all justify what they are doing as being for power production. Anyone out of diapers knows it is nuclear bomb technology whether it is being developed by Iran or Australia.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists site: http://www.thebulletin.org/doomsday_clock/timeline .htm [thebulletin.org]

Another way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15423986)

White house scientists are currently considering bombing iranian centrifuges plants to see if the U235 concentrates on top of the debris pile to be easily picked up by ground forces.

Good News! (1)

eLijahTheReticent (902423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424021)

Have to tell Ahmadi Nejad about this...

Shark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424030)

Does this mean we should expect sharks with uranium-enriching lasers on their head?

take one step back and look beyond nuclear OMG: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424035)

Could this technology be used for other "electrofloatation" purposes as well? Like, doing funny things to airborne particles and molecules? Removing heavy elements using modified electrostatic filters, or making active virtual lightning rods by electrifing N2 molecules above the instalation? Perhaps even creating free-air plasma powerlines "on the fly" (deathrays, anyone?), or making air-breathing ion jet engines?

uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424037)

zentrifuges were just started to get used in 70'ies for enrichment of uranium? you people may check for example the english wikipedia on nuclear accidents - not that you should check out the accidents, but there is a good book about the history of nuclear sciences from the point of time on, when people realised that they could fission atoms.

The idea to use a zentrifuge to enrich uranium is older than using a filter, because of the high volatility of the uranium compounds in use (uranium hexaflourid was widely used then in a special chamber (comparable to oil refineries) to try to enrich it, which is sort of a really strong corrosion inducing material - forgive my bad english in chemical terminology)

nevertheless having the ability to use laser's to enrich, maybe we can now switch to thorium and actinium cores? :)

25 years ago they also talked about this (1)

Kim0 (106623) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424048)

I think it was about 25 years ago. I saw a tv-program about laser isotope separation. It was american, or english.

Kim0

This is hardly a new technology (5, Informative)

Trestop (571707) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424068)

According to Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistle blower - as quoted by the Sunday Times - Israel had laser enrichment technology, in actual production use, at the early 1980s.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu [wikipedia.org]

So - nothing new here, move along, move along.

Women And Warheads (5, Informative)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424069)

I'm one of the "500 scientists" who worked on the ""failed" US efforts in the early 1980s, and I'd take this whole report with a grain of salt. First of all, just how far the US got with our effort is classified and having the media calling it a "failure" doesn't mean that we never accomplished in our labs 20 years ago what these Austrians did in theirs last month. The US lab effort was HUGE and not just aimed at uranium enrichment. There was a seperate program for seperating plutonium isotopes via laser enrichment to fine-tune and further miniturize nuclear weapons to an amazingly small package. These were the Reagan Star Wars years, after all.

However, it's a LONG way from lab benchtop enrichment experiments to a functioning enrichment plant. And once you get to that functioning enrichment plant, there's the question of whether or not it was economically justifiable to build in the first place. This is where the American effort "failed" - even on paper, it never made sense to pursue this technology because it was just too expensive. Sure, you need thousands of high-precision centrifuges to run an enrichment cascade. This was still cheaper than building a laser enrichment plant.

The designs for a uranium laser enrichment plant ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE are not for the fainthearted. YOu've got to have the uranium in a gaseous state. That means heating it so hot that not only do you have a pool of molten uranium, but it's BOILING. The laser is going through the HOT uranium "steam". The only material that can stand up to these temperatures is pure graphite. The design becomes like a series of rain gutters on a house that carries "more enriched" and "less enriched" streams of molten uranium back for reboiling. Somehow you've got to figure out a way of putting optical ports into this hellhole to fire the laser beams in. The laser beams themselves are a weird wavelength (green) and takes some really expensive gear to generate at all, much less with intense enough power to penetrate deeply into a fog of molten uranium. Doing all of this cheaply? Good luck.

And in the background overshadowing enrichment plant economics was and is the fact that nuclear power plants are still just too expensive a way to generate electricity (primarily due to regulatory costs) compared to coal and natural gas turbine plants. The expected boom in nuclear power plant construction forcast in the 1970s and early 1980s never materialized, mainly due to Thre Mile Island and Chernobyl, and so the need for new-fangled enrichment technology as a support industry never materialized with it either.

Right now the cheapest way to come up with fuel for a nuclear power plant is not laser enrichment or even centrifuge enrichment. It's diluting old Russian warheads [usec.com] , all 30,000 of them, down from 93% enriched uranium back to 3% uranium. This, along with all those Russian brides [russianbrides.com] American men now have access to, are the REAL spoils of winning the Cold War.

Re:Women And Warheads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424097)

They were Australian - not Austrian. Big difference.

Re:Women And Warheads (2, Informative)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424117)

Oops. My bad.

Re:Women And Warheads (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15424153)

As a non scientist, I would have expected you to know the difference between Austria (it's in Europe) and Australia (it's across the Pacific).

I'll give an E for effort on the humour.
you can use it spell three correctly

Re:Women And Warheads (1)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424164)

That's what I get for skimming without my glasses on so early in the morning, and for reading this Slashdot article right after an article on Arnie [washingtonpost.com] . My subconscious at work....or snoozing.

Re:Women And Warheads (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424157)

Yeah, it's interesting that he's not even making particularly optimistic claims for the process. Goldsworthy says it "may halve enrichment costs", not cut the cost by a factor of ten or anything. Sounds to me like in all probability it will not actually be any cheaper than current methods once the reality-checking has been done and all costs associated with carrying out the process are factored in, especially after reading your description of what's likely involved.

Re:Women And Warheads (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424163)

The designs for a uranium laser enrichment plant ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE are not for the fainthearted. YOu've got to have the uranium in a gaseous state.

Yeah. Right there is where the difficulties with this method became most apparent to me. Any method that requires you to have a vaporised metal floating around is probably best left in the laboratory. Just look at all those Mad Hatters!

At least it will be easy to detect..... (1)

dr_db (202135) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424075)

All they need to watch for is large aquariums for the sharks.

Mass spectrometry (3, Informative)

nickovs (115935) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424086)

There are at present only two methods for sifting uranium atoms, or isotopes, to create the right mix.

There is a third method that has been used on an industrial scale, which is to essentially build a huge mass spectrometer. Mass spectrometers are usually used to separate atoms into their isotopes for analysis but Ernest O. Lawrence [atomicarchive.com] proposed this for the Manhattan Project [atomicarchive.com] and the Y-12 separator at Oak Ridge, TN, built in 1941 [atomicarchive.com] , yielded some useful results before being superseded by gaseous diffusion at the K-25 facility and later the S-50 thermal diffusion plant. Indeed the first 200 grams of fissile material delivered to Los Alamos came from the electromagnetic separator, more than a year before the diffusion separator started operation (the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima used about 64Kg)

Sand + glass + electricity (3, Interesting)

JumpingBull (551722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424128)

And you have the potential for electrolysis.
Process heat comes from the Sun, still the best fusion reactor going.
Electrolytic by-products are:
  • oxygen
  • silicon
  • a glassy slag concentrating mineral impurities to higher grade ore

Now if the reaction can be combined with some hydrogen injection to make water and ease the total (electrical) energy required you get a nice sustainable technology. Water, also.

Solar cells are made from the silicon, formed into parabolic mirrors that focus the IR band to the smelting pot. Interference coating the cells is easy with the free nothing called a vacuum

Electricity from the power cells drives the electrolysis and runs the station power.

With all that silicon, I'm betting that some composition can make silicon into something more ductile.
Cheap building material would be nice...

Two methods? (2, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424135)

> There are at present only two methods for sifting
> uranium atoms, or isotopes, to create the right mix.

AVLIS has been around since the 1970s, and there is also the South African cyclonic process. There are also hints in the public literature that there are other methods that were examined by the Manhatten Project and not pursued for various reasons.

sPh

Oh Great! (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424156)

The sharks with frickin' lasers were dangerous enough. Now they're gonna be enriching uranium!

Two Words (2, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424190)

Two Words : OH SHIT.

I don't mean to be too alarmist, but this is VERY bad news. See, it's easy to get access to uranium ore. Many countries have the mineral, and buying yellowcake is not supposed to be all that hard. Heck, some of it supposedly went through Africa. If you have just a few kilograms of highly enriched uranium, again it is easy to make a bomb. Spherical explosives aren't needed, a simple crashing together of a critical mass is enough. 10-20 kilotons is still enough to cut the heart out of a major world city, and kill hundreds of thousands of people.

But getting from A->B WAS ludicriously expensive. I read that it takes a year for a sample to travel from one side of the centrifuge plant to another, and these plants have to be enormous, costing billions. The laser method as described appears to be much cheaper and generates probably close to 100% pure U-235. Yes, it is a secret technology, but the plans can be stolen or bought, and lasers and all the other stuff needed to make it work are not restricted exports.

It might still cost a billion dollars to make a nuke, but that's it - not 10 billion. Most private individuals without access to nation state resources can't do it, but even the poorest dictatorship in the world can probably scrape together or steal from the U.N. a billion.

Only *two* (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15424205)

...Methods of enrichment? Well, shit...I guess the Calutron [lbl.gov] [wikipedia.org] has to go back into the closet. Since it was used long before there were any reactors [angeltowns.net] , and uses low tech methods, Iraq would never [nuclearweaponarchive.org] use one.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>