Conservation of Helium

(Adopted by Council on November 19, 1995)

The American Physical Society is profoundly concerned about the potential loss of the nation's accumulated helium reserves. Helium is essential for achieving the extremely cold temperatures required by many current and emerging technologies as well as for advanced scientific research. The overall demand for helium has been steadily increasing, and there is every reason to believe that this trend will continue.

Although the United States is fortunate in having a greater abundance of this critical element than any other nation, the supply has severe natural limits. Helium is obtained by extraction from natural gas. If not extracted, the helium is irretrievably lost to the atmosphere when the gas is burned. For this reason, the federal government prudently established a storage program for helium, but legislation now being considered would dispose of virtually this entire helium store within two decades.

In view of the importance of this unique and irreplaceable natural resource to modern science and technology, The American Physical Society urges that measures be adopted that will both conserve and enhance the nation's helium reserves. Failure to do so would not only be wasteful, but would be economically and technologically shortsighted.