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Within REACH

The Royal Society has published its government sponsored report on nanotechnology. Professor Ann Dowling, the chair of the working group that wrote the report, produced a positive response in the press release:

The report does not find any justification for imposing a ban on the production of nanoparticles.

However, since these new technologies are uncertain and dangerous, the Royal Society called for the death of a thousand regulations. The Report concluded that all products including nanoparticles should be regulated by EU chemical regulation and the Health and Safety Executive:

Because of their novel chemical properties, the report recommends that nanoparticles and nanotubes should be treated as new chemicals under UK and European legislation, in order to trigger appropriate safety tests and clear labelling. Furthermore they should be approved – separately from chemicals in a larger form – by an independent scientific safety committee before they are permitted for use in consumer products such as cosmetics.

As the EU wishes to implement a new EU Directive (the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals legislation – REACH) that introduces the precautionary principle to all chemicals produced within its borders, this sounds the death knell for nascent nanotechnology within Europe. The government has obtained the authority of the scientific profession (most of which works within the public sector) to justify conforming with EU regulation.

Will Europeans lynch their leaders when they realise they have been cheated out of an Age of Miracles?

19 comments to Within REACH

  • Julian Morrison

    They haven’t been cheated out of an Age of Miracles. They’ll just have to buy it imported from China.

  • Rob

    Eric Drexler predicted that the age of nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing was just around the corner. Many accused him of being unrealistic. Now I wonder if they had a point – but not for any reasons to do with technology.

  • flaime

    Sounds similar to some things being advanced in the US under proposals being sought by large US chemical companies.

  • R C Dean

    You can either reap the benefits of the next economic revolution by letting happen in your country, or you can go broke buying it imported, while your domestic economy withers under the brutal competition and export of capital that will inevitably occur.

  • I don’t know much about other nanotech, but nanotube technology is so potentially revolutionary that I know that both the US Government and a few real visionaries are working hard to make it a reality.

    Two years ago at the World Space Congress in Houston I was shown a one inch long nanotube. I’m not sure what progress has been made since but I would not be surprised if they can grow them to about three or four inches. (LONG LIVE IMPERIAL MEASURES or LLIM). These are going to be the basis for a whole new class of materiels that will really make SSTO type vehicles possible.

    Poor poor EU

  • Ick.

    It seems to me that every new industry and technology is simply seen as yet another excuse for a new department or regulation…

    Perhaps the old Keyensian Savings+Taxation+Imports = Investment + Government spending + eXports can be modified to include two more factors, Innovation and Regulation – inserted on opposite ends of the equation, cancelling each other out whilst still providing employment for beaurocrats.

  • Dale Amon

    “Will Europeans lynch their leaders when they realise they have been cheated out of an Age of Miracles?”

    No, they’ll just emigrate off-planet with the rest of us.

    “Happiness is the Earth in your rear-view mirror”

  • James

    spacer,

    Things have (unsurprisingly) moved on since then;

    Nano-team spins tomorrow’s yarn

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3872931.stm

  • Brian

    Bad for the EU, good for the rest of the world? I can’t say I’m surprised, really. The only ill that might come of this is if the folks in the EU get the rest of the world to join in. For the children, you know.

  • No, they’ll just emigrate off-planet with the rest of us.

    To where, Dale?

  • Brian

    “To where, Dale?”

    Moon, Mars, the Belt, the Oort cloud. Where do you want to go today, David?

  • James

    Thanks for the heads up. Nice to see they are using an aerogel. I love that stuff.

  • Guy Herbert

    There are a couple of problems with this particular disaster scenario.

    One is that any definition of nanotechnology (which will be necessary in order to restrict it) that doesn’t apply to all research in chemistry, biochemistry and materials science is going to be pretty hard to come up with. (That the Royal Society has managed to get itself annexed as another quango whose views can be controlled by its terms of reference is really quitye a distressing thought though.)

    The second is that the EU’s going to have its hands full enough with REACH, even if it sticks to its barmy arbitrary criterion that annual production of a material must be in excess 1 tonne in the EU before it becomes a “safety” issue.

  • Daveon

    I think Nanotech generally will sit in physics and material research rather than chemical – even if there is a lot of chemsitry. So I expect this sceanrio is unlikely.

    Cautionary tail about nano-tubes: when I did my engineering degree, ceramic fiber was the Next Big Thing, because fibres more than a few millimetres (long live metric ;) ) were being grown in labs. The problem was as you reached sensible lengths the fibres fell apart.

    I have a good feeling about nanotubes, not least of which because it brings space elevators into the realm of possibility and I am beginning to suspect that is going to be the only way to build an off world infrastructure. Still, with anything, especially material science, it is worth keeping a skeptics hat on.

  • Joel Català

    This would be the factual banning of nanotechnological development in EUrope and, under the current global trends, at best, the stagnation of the European economic vitality; at worst, that would be a defenseless Europe in front of the Islamic assault on the West.

  • Formerly Dan

    This would be the factual banning of nanotechnological development in EUrope and, under the current global trends, at best, the stagnation of the European economic vitality; at worst, that would be a defenseless Europe in front of the Islamic assault on the West.

    I don’t think that it’s just nanotech Joel. It looks like Europe is doomed anyway. It seems that Europe as a whole doesn’t want to make any sacrifices or take any risks to assure a better future.

  • Julian Taylor

    How exactly does one label a nanoparticle, under EU directives, especially ‘clear’ labelling? Does it have to be clearly visible to the human eye under 10,000x magnification, or what?

  • Greg

    Thanks Europe! Keep on sending America your best and brightest! Maybe they can somehow match the folks who split the atom for US! Einstein, Fermi, Szilard, Teller, etc….

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