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Friday, October 26, 2012 - 10:45am

Zapping Nuclear Waste With Laser Beams Could Actually Be A Great Idea

Updated: 2 years ago.
This laser's just pretty, not powerful: Artist Yvette Mattern's laser rainbow in Whitley Bay, England, earlier this year.

"World's Most Powerful Laser Beams To Zap Nuclear Waste."

That Bloomberg Businessweek headline got our attention. We were imagining the explosion that might result.

But as it turns out, the zapping "could destroy nuclear waste and provide new cancer treatments," according to the story.

Businessweek's piece is an update on news that's been around for a couple years that the Extreme Light Infrastructure European Project is developing lasers that are "10 times more powerful than any yet built and will be strong enough to create subatomic particles in a vacuum, similar to conditions that may have followed the start of the universe."

The lasers, to be built in the Czech Republic and Romania (and possibly Hungary), will cost about $900 million. It's hoped they'll be online by 2015. According to Businessweek, researchers believe "the power of the light beams could be used to deteriorate the radioactivity of nuclear waste in just a few seconds and target cancerous tumors, the projects's Romanian coordinator Nicolae-Victor Zamfir said in an interview."

(H/T to NPR.org's Wright Bryan.)

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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