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Digital Archive International History Declassified

November 26, 1957

LETTER, SOUTH AFRICAN ATOMIC ENERGY BOARD, 'PRODUCTION OF HEAVY WATER IN THE UNION'

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation, Carnegie Corporation

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    The Deputy Chairman of South Africa's Atomic Energy Board sets out the present position in regard to the manufacture of heavy water in the Union.
    "Letter, South African Atomic Energy Board, 'Production of Heavy Water in the Union'," November 26, 1957, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, South African Foreign Affairs Archives, Brand Fourie Personal Papers, Atomic Research in the Union of South Africa, Atomic Energy, 137,11,23, Vol 2, 6.8.57-25.2.58. Obtained and contributed by Anna-Mart van Wyk, Monash South Africa. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116063
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The Secretary for Foreign Affairs: Pretoria.

Production of Heavy Water in the Union.

With reference to your letter 137/11/23 dated 28 October, addressed to the acting Secretary for Mines, I wish to inform you that the production of Heavy Water has been investigated by the Board since last year. In the first instance an investigation into existing processes has been undertaken by dr A.J.A. Roux, Director of Research of the Board. At the beginning of this year two engineers were appointed to assist dr Roux. On 29 March they published a report where in all the locally available information on the different processes to produce Heavy Water was explained. After a detailed study it was decided to further investigate the six processes that from a South African viewpoint would be feasible. One such is the Sasol-patent process where the surplus gas available at Sasol is used. To further the investigation it was necessary to send the Board’s two engineers to theAtomic Research Establishment at Harwell for 12 months. The two engineers, Mr Colly and Fraser, left in June and reported in England to the British Authority, Dr Pratt at Harwell on the 1st of July. They are currently working there and will not return to South Africa before the middle of next year. They will possibly visit other countries as well to gather information on the production of Heavy Water. They will possibly include the Scandinavian countries in their visits.

For the strictly confidential information of the Union’s Charge d’ Affaires in Vienna it can be added that the report as quoted by him originated fromSasol and that it was unduly optimistic.  As the Charge d’ Affaires is aware, Heavy Water can only be used as a moderator in nuclear reactors and will influence the capital expenditures of a nuclear reactor and until success is proven with a homogenous reactor that uses of Heavy Water with uranium oxide in suspension, if possible at all, it will lower the cost of the generating of nuclear energy.

Concerning the Atomic Energy Board, the representatives of the Scandinavian countries may be informed that the investigations into the production of Heavy Water in South Africa will continue. With its cheap coal South Africa may produce Heavy Water on a competitive basis.

(Signed) V.H OSBORN

Deputy Chairperson: Atomic Energy Board.

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