APS News

February 2011 (Volume 20, Number 2)

Comments Sought for APS Non-Proliferation Petition

Comment Now!

Deadline: March 8, 2011
Gray arrow  Comment on the Petition

Technical Steps to Support Nuclear Downsizing cover

Background Information

Related Nuclear Information
Gray arrow APS Council Nuclear Energy Statement (1993)

Gray arrow "Nuclear Power and Proliferation Resistance: Securing Benefits, Limiting Risks" Format - PDF
APS/POPA Report (2005)

Gray arrow "Readiness of the US Nuclear Workforce for 21st Century Challenges" Format - PDF
APS POPA Report (2008)

Technical Steps to Support Nuclear Arsenal Downsizing (2010)
Gray arrow Full Report Format - PDF
Gray arrow Executive Summary

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering a petition submitted by APS calling for a change in the NRC’s regulations “regarding the domestic licensing of special nuclear material to include proliferation assessments as part of the licensing process.”

Specifically, the rule change would require companies that apply to the NRC for an enrichment or reprocessing license to include an assessment of proliferation risks that their facility might pose.  The assessment could help prevent the spread of nuclear technology to a nation seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Until now, there has been no requirement for a company to undergo a specific nonproliferation assessment; however, the NRC has argued that the “net effect” of all the rest of the licensing process should ensure the safety of nuclear secrets.

Francis Slakey, APS associate director of public affairs, said that NRC docketed the APS petition in late December asking for a specific nonproliferation assessment requirement. APS members interested in reading the petition and submitting a comment can either go to the regulations.gov webpage and search for the document “NRC-2010-0372-0003” or find a link on the APS homepage. The commission’s open-comment period extends until March 8.

“APS is concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation and the development of covert enrichment facilities,” Slakey said.  “With its petition, APS wants to limit the possibility that other countries might acquire more advanced technologies.”

In February of 2010, APS’s Panel on Public Affairs released a report calling for proliferation risk assessments for companies applying for a permit to enrich nuclear materials. The report, Technical Steps to Support Nuclear Downsizing, highlighted the concern that new, easily concealed technologies could make it easier for a country to hide its clandestine nuclear weapons program. One such example is the recently developed technique known as SILEX, which uses lasers to enrich uranium. To prevent sensitive technology from spreading to unfriendly regimes, the report recommended that NRC “elevate the priority of non-proliferation in the licensing process.”  An effective way to achieve this, according to Slakey, is to require a proliferation assessment.

This is the second petition submitted to the NRC. The first, submitted last summer, was initially rejected. In a public meeting last September with APS staff, NRC staff identified additional information that was needed in order for the petition to be considered. The revised petition was submitted last November.

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Editor: Alan Chodos

February 2011 (Volume 20, Number 2)

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Articles in this Issue
APS Member Count Tops 48,000
New Physical Review Journal Offers Online, Open Access Publishing
Kovar Reflects on State of High Energy Physics, and the Road Ahead
Funding Runs Out to Keep Tevatron Alive
Comments Sought for APS Non-Proliferation Petition
New PhDs Trending Away from Postdoc Positions
Dutch, Spanish Physicists to Give March Meeting Beller Lectures
COMPETES Act Signed Into Law
Top Ten Physics-Related News Stories of 2010
Letters To the Editor
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
Washinton Dispatch
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
International News