Many countries in the Middle East ... are interested in building nuclear power plants. The critical point is finding a way to neutralize the plutonium."
Israeli scientists from Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva have suggested a new type of 'peaceful' nuclear fuel which cannot be used to create nuclear weapons. The fuel could be exported to nations interested in producing nuclear power without fear that they could use it for a more sinister purpose.
The investigative team, which included Professor Yigal Ronen, Dr. Yogin Shwagraus, and Mr. Luenid Gold will publish their results in the upcoming issue of the Science and Global Security journal.
In order to create a nuclear power plant or a nuclear weapon, naturally mined uranium must be enriched, usually using a gas centrifuge method. The technologically advanced enrichment step of producing nuclear fuel is prohibitive to many countries which would like to become nuclear powers.
On the other hand, nuclear fuel with already enriched uranium can be purchased, but international regulations limit its sale since the spent nuclear fuel can be recycled for use in a nuclear weapon. The Israeli scientists suggest in their study that the element americium be added to the fuel at a level of 0.1 percent. According to their research, the addition would neutralize the spent fuel, making it unusable in a weapon.
Professor Ronen explained that “many countries in the Middle East such as Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen are interested in building nuclear power plants. The critical point is finding a way to neutralize the plutonium which the power plants create [as a byproduct].” His new research may enable the peaceful exportation of nuclear fuel to these countries and prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.