Iran continues developing its nuclear programme:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has inaugurated a new phase of a heavy water reactor project despite Western fears about its nuclear programme. He said Iran posed no threat to other states, not even its "enemy" Israel.
Heavy water reactors produce plutonium which can be an alternative route to a nuclear device, the other being highly enriched uranium.
Observers say Iran's move aims to send a signal of defiance days ahead of a UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
But, as Mohammad Sa'idi, international affairs deputy of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, explains on Iranian TV, there's no cause for alarm here. The heavy water's for drinking:
Interviewer: "You just said that in some cases, heavy water can even be used for drinking."
Mohammad Sa'idi: "Yes."
Interviewer: "Could you elaborate on this?"
Mohammad Sa'idi: "One of the products of heavy water is depleted deuterium. As you know, in an environment with depleted deuterium, the reception of cancer cells and of the AIDS viruses is disrupted. Since this reception is disrupted, the cells are gradually expelled from the body. Obviously, one glass of depleted deuterium will not expel or cure the cancer or eliminate the AIDS. We are talking about a certain period of time. In many countries that deal with these diseases, patients use this kind of water instead of regular water, and consume it daily in order to heal their diseases.
"In other words, the issue of heavy water has to do with matters of life and death, in many cases. One of the reasons that led us to produce heavy water was to use it for agricultural... medical purposes, and especially for industrial purposes in our country." [...]
"There is no connection whatsoever between heavy water and plutonium.
Heavy water production reactors can be designed to turn uranium into bomb-usable plutonium without requiring enrichment facilities.... Heavy water production reactors have been used for this purpose by India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and USA.
Strangely the Wikipedia article fails to mention the extraordinary health benefits of drinking heavy water:
Mammals such as rats given heavy water to drink die after a week, at a time when their body water approaches about 50% deuteration. The mode of death appears to be the same as that in cytotoxic poisoning (such as chemotherapy) or in acute radiation syndrome (though of course deuterium is not radioactive), and is due to deuterium's action in generally inhibiting cell division. Deuterium oxide has even been tested as a chemotherapeutic agent, but it seems to offer no advantages. As in chemotherapy, deuterium-poisoned mammals die of a failure of bone marrow (bleeding and infection) and intestinal-barrier functions (diarrhea and fluid loss).