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Sensitivity of Isotopic Separation Techniques

  1. Oct 5, 2009 #1
    Understandably so, certain isotopic separation techniques are going to be sensitive (U-235, U-233, Li-6) because of their relationship to nuclear weapons. Would any other isotopic separation techniques fall under the wing of any regulating agency in the United States (NRC, NNSA, etc.)? For example... Deuterium, Boron, Oxygen, Silicon, etc.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2009 #2


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    No. Isotopic separation of fissile materials or materials like Li-6, which could be used for a thermonuclear weapon, are of greatest concern from the standpoint of national and global security. There is no such concern for isotopes of other elements. The issue there is purely economic.

    The control of isotopic separation (enrichment) technology is because the same technology can be used for separating weapons material from less useful isotopes. The more efficient the enrichment process, the tighter the control.

    The particlular technology falls under the regulation of the NNSA, while the safety issues of enrichment of fissile materials falls under the NRC.
  4. Oct 13, 2009 #3
    Perhaps I misunderstand. Should the answer be "depends on the technology" whether or not it is viable method for said notable materials? i.e. chemical property differences instead of pure mass separation techniques?

    Would not Boron-10 separation be of concern since Boron-11 is a potential fusion fuel?
  5. Oct 13, 2009 #4


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    Boron enrichment is typically done chemically-gravimetrically because there is a relatively big fractional difference between B-10 and B-11. For isotopes of heavy elements, e.g., U-235 and U-238, the fractional difference is smaller.

    The sensitivity does depend on the technology. The most sensitive technology is Laser Isotopic Separation techniques like AVLIS and SILEX.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
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