January 29th, 2004

2013

worker safety at nuke plants may worsen due to new Fed. proposal

By Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is looking at waiving some government safety standards at federal nuclear facilities if contractors don't like them — after Congress directed it to start fining the contractors for violations.

Critics contend that long-established government minimum standards at more than two dozen nuclear-weapons plants and research labs would become unenforceable under the proposal. Energy Department officials say the intent is to give contractors more flexibility without compromising safety.

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., an author of the 2002 legislation ordering the fines, accused the administration this week of distorting Congress' intent with a plan that "will likely decrease worker protection."

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2013

new form of matter created in lab

A long-sought new form of matter has been created for the first time. The matter, called a fermionic condensate, consists of atoms that are ordinarily forbidden to exist in the same quantum state but have been tricked into it by linking into pairs.

It occupies the middle ground between loosely linked particles that form superconductors and tightly bound ones in Bose-Einstein condensates, another exotic form of matter produced fleetingly since 1995. The creation of the new condensate is considered the crucial first step toward producing superconductors that work at room temperatures.

"This is a tremendous success," says Keith Burnett, a physicist at Oxford University, UK. The University of Colorado researchers who accomplished the feat are "fantastic experimentalists", he says, adding that scientists around the world have been racing to overcome the technical challenges of creating the matter.

[Full article @ newscientist.com]
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