Saturday, November 13, 2004

A Weed Is A Weed

Tumbleweeds (aka Russian Thistle) are the bane of the western states. They are good for nothing, and blow across the landscape, piling up wherever they are stopped by a wall or a corner. The common way to get rid of them is by burning, and they go up like a flare. When I lived in Albuquerque my neighbors thought I might be burning down the house on a couple of occasions.

Take another problem. NATO forces have been using depleted uranium for tank ammunition for years. The British alone used two tons of the stuff around Basra in Iraq. It litters the landscape, and has been blamed for everything from Gulf War Syndrome to lung cancer.

Now the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro has found a use for tumbleweeds and a way to clean up depleted uranium. “There is some use to what we consider noxious weeds,” said geologist Dana Ulmer-Scholle.

The weeds grow quickly, and use little water. For some reason they seem to absorb uranium from the soil. However, no one seems to mention how to get rid of the tumbleweeds after they are done. You certainly couldn't burn them.


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