Israeli engineers discover a way to ‘de-claw’ nuclear fuelEngineers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev claim to have developed a technique to “de-claw” nuclear fuel, ensuring that it can only be used for peaceful purposes.
The researchers say that by adding Americium (Am 241), a form of the basic synthetic element found in commercial smoke detectors and industrial gauges, plutonium created in large nuclear reactors is ‘denatured’, making it unsuitable for use in nuclear arms.
Prof. Yigal Ronen, of BGU’s Department of Nuclear Engineering, who led the project, said the technique could help “de-claw” more than a dozen countries developing nuclear reactors if the United States, Russia, Germany, France and Japan agree to add the denaturing additive into all plutonium.
“When you purchase a nuclear reactor from one of the five countries, it also provides the nuclear fuel for the reactor,” he explains. “If the five agree to insert the additive into fuel for countries now developing nuclear power – such as Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Namibia, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – they will have to use it for peaceful purposes rather than warfare.”
An article on Ronen’s research will appear next month in the Science and Global Security journal.