Missing More than Molybdenum

In the world of nuclear isotopes, apparently there are shortages or potential shortages of more than just technetium (and the molybdenum used to make it).  The Knight Journalism Tracker noted an NPR story reporting that there are shortages of plutonium-238, the isotope that powers many deep space missions.  Like technetium, plutonium-238 is the byproduct of other nuclear processes.  In this case the process is nuclear weapons manufacture, something both the U.S. and Russia are doing much less than they used to.  Since both countries were relying on the supplies they had generated from previous weapon manufacture, the stockpiles are running low and there are no foreign sources currently manufacturing the material.  Much like molybdenum and technetium, the U.S. has not produced plutonium-238 since the 1980s.  Unlike those two isotopes, there are no bills in Congress (or any other plans) to address the shortfall.

How Some Science Agencies Are Spending Stimulus Cash

UPDATE 9/30, 1:58 p.m. – The NIH announced a whole mess of grants today, bringing their spending total to just over $5 billion (H/T The Scientist).  The announcement was part of a visit by President Obama to NIH, and you can watch the event online.

UPDATE – 3:10 p.m.ScienceInsider points to a transcript of the President’s remarks.


Nature News pointed me to the recent analysis from the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program about how some of the science agencies are spending the money appropriated to them via the stimulus package.  The Department of Energy Office of Science has spent most ($1.3 billion) of its $1.6 billion and The National Science Foundation has spent $2.2 billion of the $3 billion allocated to it.  The National Institutes of Health are not as fast, having spent just $2.7 billion of its $10.4 billion.

Now the NIH has decided to spread its spending out over two years, and the other offices have not.  Given the large amount of money the NIH has to deal with, and the problems it had the last time a series of large budget increases ended, a more gradual (relatively speaking) disbursement of funds makes sense.  With any luck, someone will grab some of those NSF stimulus funds to check how well the science stimulus money will affect the economy.  Hopefully the panels for the Science of Science and Innovation Policy program will be willing to approve proposals like that, and some researcher is willing to make the proposal.