Enriching Debate

An expert panel has presented the German government with some choices for a controversial new reactor near Munich that's designed to produce neutrons for materials science and other research. The $500 million FRM-II neutron source, due to be completed in 2001, would be fueled by highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make weapons. Nonproliferation advocates want the reactor to be reconfigured to use a low-enriched uranium fuel. The German government appointed a committee in January to review alternatives (Science, 5 February, p. 785).

This week, the seven-member panel concluded that it would be costly and time-consuming to alter FRM-II's design this late in the game. But the panel, led by science ministry official Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, said that the reactor might be able to make a less costly switch by 2008 to a low-enriched uranium fuel in development.

The German cabinet is expected to decide how to proceed within a few months. But any changes in the FRM-II must be coordinated with the state of Bavaria, which oversees the project.