United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment
Home > NRC Library > Document Collections > NRC Regulations (10 CFR) >  Part Index > Appendix K to Part 110—Illustrative List of Equipment and Components Under NRC Export Licensing Authority for Use in a Plant for the Production of Heavy Water, Deuterium and Deuterium Compounds

Appendix K to Part 110—Illustrative List of Equipment and Components Under NRC Export Licensing Authority for Use in a Plant for the Production of Heavy Water, Deuterium and Deuterium Compounds

Note: Heavy water can be produced by a variety of processes. However, two processes have proven to be commercially viable: The water-hydrogen sulphide exchange process (GS process) and the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process.

A. The GS process is based upon the exchange of hydrogen and deuterium between water and hydrogen sulphide within a series of towers which are operated with the top section cold and the bottom section hot. Water flows down the towers while the hydrogen sulphide gas circulates from the bottom to the top of the towers. A series of perforated trays are used to promote mixing between the gas and the water. Deuterium migrates to the water at low temperatures and to the hydrogen sulphide at high temperatures. Gas or water, enriched in deuterium, is removed from the first stage towers at the junction of the hot and cold sections and the process is repeated in subsequent stage towers. The product of the last stage, water enriched up to 30 percent in deuterium, is sent to a distillation unit to produce reactor grade heavy water; i.e., 99.75 percent deuterium oxide.

B. The ammonia-hydrogen exchange process can extract deuterium from synthesis gas through contact with liquid ammonia in the presence of a catalyst. The synthesis gas is fed into exchange towers and then to an ammonia converter. Inside the towers the gas flows from the bottom to the top while the liquid ammonia flows from the top to the bottom. The deuterium is stripped from the hydrogen in the synthesis gas and concentrated in the ammonia. The ammonia then flows into an ammonia cracker at the bottom of the tower while the gas flows into an ammonia converter at the top. Further enrichment takes place in subsequent stages and reactor-grade heavy water is produced through final distillation. The synthesis gas feed can be provided by an ammonia plant that can be constructed in association with a heavy water ammonia-hydrogen exchange plant. The ammonia-hydrogen exchange process can also use ordinary water as a feed source of deuterium.

C.1. Much of the key equipment for heavy water production plants using either the GS process or the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process are common to several segments of the chemical and petroleum industries; particularly in small plants using the GS process. However, few items are available "off-the-shelf." Both processes require the handling of large quantities of flammable, corrosive, and toxic fluids at elevated pressures. Therefore, in establishing the design and operating standards for plants and equipment using these processes, careful attention to materials selection and specifications is required to ensure long service life with high safety and reliability factors. The choice is primarily a function of economics and need. Most equipment, therefore, is prepared to customer requirements.

In both processes, equipment which individually is not especially designed or prepared for heavy water production can be assembled into especially designed or prepared systems for producing heavy water. Examples of such systems are the catalyst production system used in the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process and the water distillation systems used for the final concentration of heavy water to reactor-grade in either process.

C.2. Equipment especially designed or prepared for the production of heavy water utilizing either the water-hydrogen sulphide exchange process or the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process:

(i) Water-hydrogen Sulphide Exchange Towers.

Exchange towers with diameters of 1.5 m or greater and capable of operating at pressures greater than or equal to 2 MPa (300 psi) especially designed or prepared for heavy water production utilizing the water-hydrogen sulphide exchange process.

(ii) Blowers and Compressors.

Single stage, low head (i.e., 0.2 MPa or 30 psi) centrifugal blowers or compressors for hydrogen-sulphide gas circulation (i.e., gas containing more than 70 percent H2S). The blowers or compressors have a throughput capacity greater than or equal to 56 m3/second (120,000 standard cubic feet per minute) while operating at pressures greater than or equal to 1.8 MPa (260 psi) suction and have seals designed for wet H2S service.

(iii) Ammonia-Hydrogen Exchange Towers.

Ammonia-hydrogen exchange towers greater than or equal to 35 m (114.3 ft) in height with diameters of 1.5 m (4.9 ft) to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) capable of operating at pressures greater than 15 MPa (2225 psi). The towers have at least one flanged, axial opening of the same diameter as the cylindrical part through which the tower internals can be inserted or withdrawn.

(iv) Tower Internals and Stage Pumps Used in the Ammonia-hydrogen Exchange Process.

Tower internals include especially designed stage contactors which promote intimate gas/liquid contact. Stage pumps include especially designed submersible pumps for circulation of liquid ammonia within a contacting stage internal to the stage towers.

(v) Ammonia Crackers Utilizing the Ammonia-hydrogen Exchange Process.

Ammonia crackers with operating pressures greater than or equal to 3 MPa (450 psi) especially designed or prepared for heavy water production utilizing the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process.

(vi) Ammonia Synthesis Converters or Synthesis Units.

Ammonia synthesis converters or synthesis units especially designed or prepared for heavy water production utilizing the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process.

These converters or units take synthesis gas (nitrogen and hydrogen) from an ammonia/hydrogen high-pressure exchange column (or columns), and the synthesized ammonia is returned to the exchange column (or columns).

(vii) Infrared Absorption Analyzers.

Infrared absorption analyzers capable of "on-line" hydrogen/deuterium ratio analysis where deuterium concentrations are equal to or greater than 90 percent.

(viii) Catalytic Burners Used in the Ammonia-hydrogen Exchange Process.

Catalytic burners for the conversion of enriched deuterium gas into heavy water especially designed or prepared for heavy water production utilizing the ammonia-hydrogen exchange process.

(ix) Complete Heavy Water Upgrade Systems or Columns.

Complete heavy water upgrade systems or columns especially designed or prepared for the upgrade of heavy water to reactor-grade deuterium concentration. These systems, which usually employ water distillation to separate heavy water from light water, are especially designed or prepared to produce reactor-grade heavy water (i.e., typically 99.75 percent deuterium oxide) from heavy water feedstock of lesser concentration.

D. Any other components especially designed or prepared for use in a plant for the production of heavy water, deuterium, and deuterium compounds or in any of the components described in this appendix.

[58 FR 13005, Mar. 9, 1993. Redesignated at 61 FR 35603, July 8, 1996; 65 FR 70292, Nov. 22, 2000; 79 FR 39298, Jul. 10, 2014]

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, August 18, 2014