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Application of Nuclear Energy for Seawater Desalination: Design Concepts of Nuclear Desalination Plants

[+] Author Affiliations
R. S. Faibish, T. Konishi, M. Gasparini

International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria

Paper No. ICONE10-22071, pp. 15-22; 8 pages
  • 10th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering
  • 10th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering, Volume 4
  • Arlington, Virginia, USA, April 14–18, 2002
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-3598-7 | eISBN: 0-7918-3589-8
  • Copyright © 2002 by ASME


Nuclear energy is playing an important role in electricity generation, producing 16% of the world’s electricity. However, most of the world’s energy consumption is in the form of heat, in which case nuclear energy could also play an important role. In particular, process heat for seawater desalination using nuclear energy has been of growing interest to some Member States of the International Atomic Energy Agency over the past two decades. This growing interest stems from increasingly acute freshwater shortages in many arid and semi-arid zones around the world. Indeed, several national and international nuclear desalination demonstration programs are already under way or being planned. Of particular interest are projects for seawater nuclear desalination plants in coastal regions, where saline feed water can serve the dual purpose of cooling water for the nuclear reactor and as feed water for the desalination plant. In principle any nuclear reactor can provide energy (low-grade heat and/or electricity), as required by desalination processes. However, there are some additional requirements to be met under specific conditions in order to introduce nuclear desalination. Technical issues include meeting more stringent safety requirements (nuclear reactors themselves and nuclear-desalination integrated complexes in particular), and performance improvement of the integrated systems. Economic competitiveness is another important factor to be considered for a broader deployment of nuclear desalination. For technical robustness and economic competitiveness a number of design variants of coupling configurations of nuclear desalination integrated plant concepts are being evaluated. This paper identifies and discusses various factors, which support the attractiveness of nuclear desalination. It further summarizes some of the key approaches recommended for nuclear desalination complex design and gives an overview of various design concepts of nuclear desalination plants, which are experienced, being implemented or evaluated by several IAEA Member States. Operating experience with nuclear desalination using a liquid-metal reactor BN-350 in Kazakhstan and several Pressurized Water Reactor units in Japan is discussed. Results of economic analyses of nuclear desalination are also presented in order to illustrate the competitiveness of this technology with other conventional desalination operations.

Copyright © 2002 by ASME



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