Department of Energy's Heavy Water Plant Operations

EMD-78-45: Published: Mar 2, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1978.

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The only plant in the United States that is capable of producing heavy water is the one at the Department of Energy's (DOE) installation at Savannah River, South Carolina. There has been uncertainty in the past few years about the present and potential demand for heavy water and the best way to operate the plant to meet that demand. Two options for meeting current demands for heavy water were to operate the plant at about one-third capacity or to run one-third of the plant at full capacity and shut down the remainder. DOE chose the first option, although it was economically inefficient, in order to maintain the capability for maximum production. Potential areas for future demand listed by DOE were nuclear reactors, a pharmaceutical firm, and additional military requirements. Continuing to operate the plant under the current option cannot be justified because a possible sale to the New Brunswick Electric Power Commission has been negated, the potential sale to the pharmaceutical firm has diminished, and the plant would not be able to meet potential military demand. DOE should chose an alternative and the Subcommittee should require DOE to advise it of the decision and justifications as soon as possible.

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