India’s Heavy Water Board’s solvent extraction plant coming up


Construction of the Heavy Water Board’s (HWB) Rs 150 crore solvent extraction plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi will begin soon after regulatory approvals, said a top official.

“The environmental clearance for the project was obtained from the Environmental Impact Assessment Authority, Tamil Nadu, on December 31, 2018,” HWB Chairman and Chief Executive U. Kamachi Mudali told IANS on Saturday.

“The engineering part of the project has begun. Site construction work will start shortly after obtaining approval from regulatory authorities,” Mudali said.

The plant, likely to be commissioned in 2021, will have 25 ton rare material annual production capacity.

“The plant will extract rare earth elements, like yttrium, yetterbium and erbium, from phosphoric acid, which will be used for captive consumption of Department of Atomic Energy,” Mudali said.

The HWB chairman also said that the proposal to set up rare material recovery plants at West Bengal’s Haldia and Odisha’s Paradeep has been put on hold.

On heavy water production, Mudali said the current production capacity is 423 ton per annum (tpa) and work to restart 40 tpa heavy water plant in Thoothukudi is on.

Heavy water, a compound of hydrogen’s deuterium isotope and oxygen, is used as coolant or moderator in pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR).

“Once the Thoothukudi heavy water plant starts operating, total production will go up to 463 tpa,” Mudali said.

The Thoothukudi plant was shut for lack of feed material supplies after fertiliser company SPIC Ltd closed its plant in the district.

The HWB heavy water plants in Kota, Manuguru, Thal and Hazira operated with more than full capacity utilisation in 2017-18, Mudali said.

Apart from nuclear power plants, HWB is supplying heavy water to Indian research/academic organisations and collaborators for non-nuclear applications.

“During last fiscal year about Rs 60 lakh worth of heavy water has been supplied to these institutions for their research work,” Mudali said.