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Rare Earth Roundup

April 2, 2010

Rare earth elements make many modern technologies possible, but extracting them results in large amounts of toxic waste.

Transcript

A new focus on rare earths. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

China leads the world in mining and processing rare earth elements, like neodymium and gadolinium. They’re rarely mined in the United States because it takes a lot of toxic chemicals to extract and purify them. But now these minerals have become critical to 21st century technologies, including hybrid cars and wind generators. Scientists from the Department of Energy recently testified on Capital Hill about the importance of rare earths and the need to step up US research on less toxic methods of extraction.

In other news, NASA scientists report that levels of ultraviolet radiation on earth have increased over the past thirty years, they seem to be leveling off. They think the improvement comes from the decision to limit the production of ozone depleting gases in the late 1980s. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.