Talcher Heavy Water Plant

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Last Updated: November 21, 2011
Location: Mumbai, India
Subordinate To: Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)
Facility Status:

Owned and operated by the DAE's Heavy Water Board (HWB), the Talcher Heavy Water Plant in Orissa state is linked to a fertilizer factory owned by the Fertilizer Corporation of India. Construction on the facility, which was designed and built by West Germany's UHDE GmbH, began in 1972 and was completed in 1982. The plant did not begin operations until after being commissioned in March 1985. The plant produces heavy water using the bithermal version of the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process and has a production capacity of 72Mt of heavy water per year. The Talcher Heavy Water Plant has been plagued by frequent shutdowns due to poor design and equipment choices made during construction, unrealistic assumptions made on the quality of coal it would receive, and other technical deficiencies. Several modifications and changes in operating procedures were incorporated before commissioning that resulted in a higher production capacity from the original 62.7Mt per year. These design changes also resulted in cost escalation from the original estimate of 2.1 billion rupees to at least 6.6 billion rupees. Shortly after beginning operations, a severe fire at the plant in April 1986 kept it closed for repairs until July 1987. The plant's output has been meager due to periodic shutdowns at the adjoining fertilizer facility that supplies ammonia feedstock and steam. The shortages caused the indefinite suspension of production at Talcher in April 1994.

Operations at the Talcher Plant have remained suspended due to the closure of the fertilizer plant on which the heavy water plant was dependent. As part of the HWB diversification campaign, the infrastructure of the Talcher Plant has been used as a pilot plant facility for production of Di-2-ethyl hexyl phosphoric acid (D2EHPA). According to the DAE's 2000-2001 Annual Report, the facility is now operational and 7.4MT of D2EHPA has been produced. This product is marketed as a solvent (TOPS-99) with wide applications in nuclear and non-nuclear activities.

[1] Andrew Koch, "Selected Indian Nuclear Facilities," Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 1999, www.nonproliferation.org.
[2] DAE (Government of India), "Annual Report 2000-2001," Executive Summary, www.dae.gov.in.
[3] "Heavy Water Plant, Talcher," Heavy Water Board (DAE Government of India), www.heavywaterboard.org.

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