baudrunner's space: Uranium in the news
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Uranium in the news

The hot property of uranium is the isotope U-235, the fissionable material. One lingering idea of how reactions by lowering the temperature of that radioactive element to ranges approaching absolute zero can reveal insight into uranium has actually been realized by a crew at The University of Virginia headed by professor of Chemistry Lester Andrews, who triple bonded carbon to each of what was a majority of uranium-238 atoms. They reacted a very cold cloud of U-238 atoms at about 8 degrees K with fluoroform (CHF3) molecules, making uranium triflouride. Apparently this is the first time that the creation of a uranium methylidyne has been achieved and is remarkable for being a predicted outcome according to the intent of the experimenters. This being a very new development, there is no information regarding the usefulness of uranium triflouride or even regarding its stability at room temperatures, but the experiment does show what you can do with even the most reactive substances when they are supercooled. No doubt this process of coercing atoms to behave as they would not under normal temperatures will have some serious applications even when they do not involve radioactive elements.

The value of uranium triflouride must necessarily increase as the demand for uranium 235 increases while in the meantime scientists are working on ways to increase the capacity of uranium atom enrichment to make more U-238. The only solution is to enhance current technologies while hedging toward future contingencies by balancing increased production capacity with a reduction in use to satisfy the anti-nuclear lobby. Unfortunately, nuclear power plants are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to other sources of power generation because it is clean and contributes almost nothing to global warming via the greenhouse effect.

A march 22, '07 article in Science Daily points to a lack of investment in uranium procurement and enrichment and forecasts a gloomy picture of enriched uranium supplies from fuel eventually being in short supply. The current price of uranium fuel is $85 per pound versus $10 per pound just a few years ago. Existing stockpiles are being depleted and the ongoing disassembly of Russian nuclear weapons for fuel procurement for sale to the U.S. is expected to end in 2013.

There are 173 nuclear reactors operating in Europe. Eighty percent of France's electricity is produced this way. Ironically, where once environmentalists rejected the idea of nuclear energy production they are now calling for more new nuclear reactors.

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