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Iran’s Heavy Water Production Plant in Operation

Iran’s heavy water production facility, built next door to the site of their heavy water reactor construction site in Arak, Iran, was caught in operation by Google Earth.  Heavy water, which consists of an oxygen atom and two deuterons (which itself is an isotope of hydrogen with a neutron added to its original proton), is used to slow neutrons released by the fission of U235 so that they can initiate other fissions. 

Heavy water is produced by a “train” of exchange and distillation columns that separate the three types of water (H2O, HDO, and D2O) by utilizing the fact that each has a slightly different boiling temperature.  The last apparatus in this train is usually a very long column where the waste is released to the atmosphere.  The resulting vapor trail is visible in this Google Earth image as a shadow appearing to be released from the shadow of the last column, which is surrounded by a large support structure.

Producation Plant

Google Earth place-marks for Iran’s nuclear facilities can be downloaded from here.

Click here for MIT’s solution for the Iranian nuclear crisis.



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Last modified:
30 April 2009