India to push for more heavy water

The Government is proposing to set up additional streams of production of Heavy Water.

However, location of the additional facility would be based on techno-feasibility studies, the minister of state in the ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions and in the Prime Minister’s Office Shri V Narayanasamy gave this information in reply to a written question in the Lok Sabha just a day before Union Budget 2013.

India’s nuclear program requires a steady stream of heavy water, which looks and tastes like ordinary water but is used to run reactors that make plutonium. Feasibility Studies, including techno-commercial assessment for setting up additional stream for production of Heavy Water in the existing plants have been commissioned. No funds have been allocated for the purpose.

Production from the proposed additional streams may commence in about five years, after final approval of the project. Details of direct and indirect employment likely to be generated from the new stream can be assessed only on finalisation of the project.

India has not only mastered the complex technology of heavy water production making it self-reliant, but also exports high quality heavy water to countries like Republic of Korea and the United States, said former ALN Rao, Chairman and Chief Executive, Heavy Water Board. Heavy Water (D2O) is a compound of an isotope of hydrogen called heavy hydrogen or Deuterium (D) and oxygen. Heavy water reactors use heavy water as a neutron moderator. “Presently, India is the largest producer of heavy water in the world and is the only country using multiple technologies for its production,” he said.

He explained that development of heavy water process in India happened in three phases. “The first phase (late1950s to mid 1980s) was a period of technology development, the second phase was of deployment of technology and process stabilisation (mid 1980s to early 1990s) and third phase saw consolidation and a paradigm shift towards improvement in production and energy conservation,” he explained. The first heavy water plant was set up in India at Nangal in 1962.

Other Heavy water plants are at Baroda, Tuticorin, Kota, Thal, Hazira Thalchar and Manuguru. The technology for upgrading heavy water was developed at BARC. The current research is directed towards the development of alternative, more cost-effective, technologies for heavy water production, such as hydrogen-water exchange process.

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