Helium-3 is becoming scarcer and pricier because of a huge jump in demand paired with a dwindling supply. A US government multiagency panel is prioritizing allocation of 3He and seeking alternative technologies to reduce demand for the gas.

A product of tritium decay

( H 3 H 3 + β + v ¯ ) ,
3 He is collected from nuclear weapons, in which tritium produces neutrons that boost the explosiveness of plutonium. In the US, that is done as weapons are refurbished and dismantled at the Savannah River site of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). But the number of weapons in US—and Russian—nuclear stockpiles has gone down since the cold war, so less 3He is available. As a result, says Bill Hagan, acting deputy director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “US production...

You do not currently have access to this content.