Laser Uranium Enrichment Makes a Comeback

The controversial technology poses proliferation risks, but nuclear firms press on

5 min read
Laser Uranium Enrichment Makes a Comeback


Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dangerous Device? Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s plan was among many doomed laser uranium enrichment schemes. Will GE and Hitachi succeed where so many others have not?

Two technology giants, GE and Hitachi, are betting big on a nuclear renaissance. The companies formed an alliance in 2007 to push for a global expansion of nuclear power. But selling new reactors is only half the game. The joint venture is also aggressively pursuing a controversial technique for making nuclear fuel using lasers, a method they hope to commercialize by building the world’s first industrial-scale pilot plant in 2012. Regulatory agencies are worried that laser enrichment of uranium could lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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