News & AnalysisPhysics

Congress Tries Again to Head Off Looming Helium Crisis

Science  22 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6122, pp. 894
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6122.894

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Summary

For the second time in 8 months, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would prevent an acute but wholly self-inflicted shortage of helium from striking later this year. The shortage would hamstring research in a variety of fields. Since 1996, the U.S. government has been selling off its vast reserve of helium, but by law, they will continue only until the Bureau of Land Management, which controls the reserve, recoups the cost of developing the reserve, which is expected to happen 30 September. A new bill hopes to address issues with the system, and would continue current sales for another year and then again in a second phase lasting until about 2020. But even if the bill becomes law, the helium reserve will be gone within roughly 15 years.