Who’ll buy heavy water?

ornlsign1Oak Ridge National Laboratory manages the Department of Energy’s Isotope Business Office and, as such, will be storing and selling some of the 32 tons of heavy water acquired in a deal with Iran.

Once it arrives and goes up for sale, who’ll be approved for purchases of the material, which has multiple uses (including development of parts for nuclear weapons and certain kinds of reactors that produce plutonium)?

David Keim, a spokesman at ORNL, said the lab doesn’t reveal specific customers of the isotopes business, but he said there could be a range of potential buyers.

“The manufacturing sector uses heavy water as feedstock to produce refined deuterated products, for instance, including deuterated chemical compounds used for scientific and medical research,” Keim said via email. “Deuterium gas, produced from heavy water, is used in the optical fibers industry to enhance data transmission capability. Deuterated materials are also used for nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopy.”

According to Keim, there has been no decision on how much of the inventory of heavy water will be sold. About six tons will be used to enhance neutron production at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source.

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This entry was posted in DOE HQ, ORNL, Science, Spallation Neutron Source on by .

About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.