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A growing threat to the U.S. is an attack by terrorists or even nations using biological weapons such as bacteria, viruses, biological toxins, and genetically altered organisms. A team of Livermore scientists, supported by the Department of Energy's Chemical and Biological Nonproliferation Program, is developing signatures of those organisms that would likely be used in biological warfare. The signatures, telltale bits of DNA unique to virulent (infectious) organisms, are needed for timely detection and identification of an attack. The signatures will be provided to public health, law enforcement, and national security agencies. In developing the signatures, researchers are also shedding light on poorly understood aspects of biology, microbiology, and genetics, such as immunology, evolution, and virulence. Increased knowledge in these fields holds the promise of better medical treatments and vaccines.
Over the past two decades, Lawrence Livermore researchers have developed laser isotope separation (LIS), a technology fundamentally different and superior to conventional methods for separating isotopes of an element. LIS uses lasers that are tuned to ionize a desired isotope so that it can be easily separated and collected. Livermore scientists took the technology to the pilot demonstration stage in the early 1990s for special nuclear materials separation and in the late 1990s for commercial uranium enrichment. LIS technology is currently finding important applications in energy, medicine, astronomy, and industry. Lawrence Livermore scientists are proposing that LIS be used to tap the energy value remaining in tailings left from decades of government uranium enrichment activities.
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