Keywords: activities, demonstration, desalination, development, feasibility, history, issues, nuclear, research, seawater
An overview of nuclear desalination: history and challenges
Both nuclear and desalination technologies are mature and proven by experience, and are commercially available from a variety of suppliers. From the early days of the two technologies, it was realised that nuclear energy could be utilised to overcome two of the challenges to the development of humankind, namely the sustainable supply of electricity and water. As early as the 1960s, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and individual countries carried out several technical and economic feasibility studies to investigate the utilisation of nuclear energy for seawater desalination. The assessments performed for these studies indicated that nuclear desalination would be technically feasible and economically competitive with fossil and renewable energy in a range of situations. Coupling nuclear reactor and desalination processes involves a number of issues that have to be addressed. These include safety of the nuclear plant and prevention of radioactive contamination of product water, assurance of potable water supply during reactor shutdown, as well as economic and financing issues. This article presents the development of nuclear desalination, its current status and its prospects for implementation, through a comprehensive review of its historical development, recent studies and R&D activities, as well as the main issues confronting nuclear desalination and approaches to address them.