Even as imported reactor-based atomic power projects are facing tardy progress, domestic nuclear sector firms are cashing in big-time on the demand for specialised nuclear services globally.
The Heavy Water Board (HWB) has bagged a big export order for supplying 11,000 kg “high purity heavy water” from the US-based Linde Electronics and Speciality Gases, which is to use the compound as raw material in the manufacture of deuterated products.
The Board is also close to wrapping up another export deal for supply of 15,000 kg heavy water to South Korea’s KHNP — a subsidiary of the Korea Electric Power Corporation that operates large nuclear and hydroelectric plants — for use in its 700 MWe (mega watt electric) Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), government officials said.
Apart from these two big orders, research institutions from France and the UK too have approached the HWB for supply of heavy water for non-nuclear applications, officials said. Heavy water is a sensitive ingredient used mainly as a moderator and coolant in nuclear power stations as well as research reactors. It contains a higher proportion of the hydrogen isotope deuterium.
Apart from the success on the heavy water exports front, the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT) too is learnt to have exported an equipment called the ‘Gamma Chamber 5000’ — a compact self shielded cobalt-60 gamma irradiator — to the National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Engineering, Bucharest, Romania against a payment of $140,000.
Earlier last year, the Hyderabad-based Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) had successfully executed an order received from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against global competition for manufacture, supply and commissioning of the fuel element end-cap welding unit to the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority.
According to DAE sources, the HWB — a constituent unit under the Department of Atomic Energy that is primarily responsible for the production of heavy water for the domestic fleet of PHWRs — is working hard to ensure greater visibility in the international market. While India had exported some quantities of heavy water in the late 1990s to South Korea and China, prior to the May 1998 nuclear weapons tests, the exported quantities were quite insignificant and there were no repeat orders. It is only now that the orders are picking up and, more importantly, importers include global nuclear powers such as the US and South Korea.
HWB has also developed similar capabilities in areas such