Month: March 2008

The true cost of U.S. defense spending

The true cost of U.S. defense spending

With the likelihood of significant political change in January 2009, the Pentagon has been thinking a lot about next year’s defense budget request (fiscal year 2010), which the new president will inherit when it’s sent to Congress in February 2009. Budget planners and senior leaders in the Defense Department and armed forces face four possible options:

The “public” discussion about the Energy Department’s Complex Transformation

The “public” discussion about the Energy Department’s Complex Transformation

On Tuesday, the Energy Department held public hearings in Washington on its plans to “transform” the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Last time I went to Energy headquarters I was turned away because I wasn’t a U.S. citizen. (See “Misadventures at the U.S. Energy Department.”) This time they let me in without inquiring about my citizenship; they even let me roam the halls unescorted to look for a bathroom. Go figure.

The U.S. nuclear weapons complex: Pushing for a new production capability

The U.S. nuclear weapons complex: Pushing for a new production capability

On January 15, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, which 37 other national security experts also endorsed. Entitled “Toward A Nuclear-Free World,” it was the second such essay in the Journal by these authors in as many years.

The Dutch experiment with a biosecurity code of conduct

The Dutch experiment with a biosecurity code of conduct

In recent years, scientists and security experts have advocated for codes of conduct as a means to prevent the modern life sciences from being misused for hostile purposes–the so-called dual-use problem. But how exactly would such codes work, and how would they be received by the scientific community? The implementation of a code of conduct in the Netherlands in mid-2007 serves as an example of what can be expected.

The potential dangers in medical isotope production

The potential dangers in medical isotope production

The medical isotope metastable technetium 99 emits gamma rays that physicians heavily rely upon to examine how organs such as hearts, lungs, and kidneys function. Technetium 99 is so beneficial to the medical community that it’s used in approximately 80-85 percent of the world’s diagnostic imaging procedures (cardiac perfusion scans and bone scans among them) and 12 million procedures in the United States alone. The size of the global nuclear imaging and therapeutics market is estimated at $3.7 billion per year.

Reducing emissions in transportation fuels

Reducing emissions in transportation fuels

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the high-profile environmental crusade in the vehicle and fuel industries was to establish a ban on lead additives in gasoline–encapsulated by the catchphrase, “get the lead out.” After initial uncertainty and some opposition based on the fear that prices would rise and vehicle performance would suffer, the transition to unleaded fuels proved remarkably easy and effective. The average blood-lead level in the U.S.