Government Tries to Bury almost 2 Tons of Useless, but Still Dangerous, Man-Made Uranium

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In the early years of the Cold War, American officials were worried the country wouldn’t have enough uranium to meet the military and civilian demands for nuclear power. So Washington set out to invest more than $5 billion to develop and stockpile a man-made form of uranium, U-233. About 3,400 pounds of U-233 was collected, most of which now awaits burial after never being used.


Scientists in the 1950s underestimated the quantities of natural uranium available, and others overestimated the long-term demand for nuclear power, which further reduced the need for U-233.


“We do consider this to be waste,” David G. Huizenga, the senior administrator for environmental management at the Department of Energy, told The New York Times. “There’s no further need for it.”


So now the Energy Department is planning on disposing of the U-233. The effort will cost $473 million, and involve burying the uranium in glass tubes in a classified area of Nevada, the Nevada National Security Site, where the government once tested nuclear bombs when it was known as the Nevada Test Site. The details of the burial site are secret because U-233 can still be used to make bombs. Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, has urged the government to dilute it will a form of uranium that will render it unable to be used in bomb making.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Uranium Substitute Is No Longer Needed, but Its Disposal May Pose Security Risk (by Matthew Wald, New York Times)

Managing the Uranium-233 Stockpile of the United States (by Robert Alvarez, Institute for Policy Studies) (pdf)


Limulus 11 years ago
If you think U233 is "useless", then you need to do some research; lookup Alvin Weinberg, the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, Kirk Sorensen, Bismuth 213 and the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.

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