In a move that came as part of the P5+1 nuclear deal, the US government has confirmed it will buy 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, a deal worth $8.6 million. The deal allows Iran to keep its heavy water collection facility open.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran is capped as to how much heavy water it can keep in the country, but is allowed to keep the facility open to sell the excess water to P5+1 members. This allows them to recoup the cost of the facility despite the deal ultimately leading to a redesign of the Arak reactor initially designed to use it.
Facing complaints over enriching uranium to high levels for the Tehran Research Reactor, Iran designed Arak, it”s successor, to run on unenriched uranium with heavy water. This design was also criticized, and one of the P5+1, likely China, will be contracted to design an alternative.
The heavy water will be stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on arrival in the US, but will be sold on the commercial market within the US. Heavy water is not radioactive itself, and has applications in several avenues of research.