Keeping tabs on nuclear material is both increasingly important and increasingly difficult these days, but researchers at the University of Maryland have devised a mechanism that may make it a lot easier to ensure unchecked radioactive materials don’t make it illicitly ashore. A novel approach to gamma ray detection could make it easier for customs officials to test shipping containers for radioactive payloads without searching them one by one.
A large Cold War supply of helium-3 has begun to rapidly run out, due to heavy demand from U.S. scientists who need the gas for neutron detectors and cryogenic experiments. Almost 60,000 liters of helium-3 were used in 2007 and 2008, compared to just 10,000 liters used annually about 10 years ago. A House subcommittee has been convened to search for a solution this week, New Scientist reports.
More than 20 years after the disastrous meltdown, formal plans to encase and dismantle Chernobyl's nuclear reactor have begun. Announced yesterday by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, the project calls for a $1.4 billion steel covering to be constructed over the next five years. Currently, the reactor is surrounded by the dilapidated and ineffective concrete encasement erected shortly after the accident—the replacement will be built just a short distance away and then slid over the entire structure. Some 95 percent of the reactor's original nuclear material remains.—Abby Seiff
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.