Current Initiatives for Nuclear Desalination

Current Initiatives for Nuclear Desalination

September 26, 2014 • 11:44AM

The following listing of nuclear desalination initiatives is compiled from the World Nuclear Association, and other sources, as of September 2014.

China, Russia, India, and South Korea all have nuclear desalination commitments and projects at sites in Eurasia, and as well, there are now collaborative projects on other continents, for example, between Argentina and Russia, China, and South Korea, in South America. There are none in the United States, whose western states are in the worst drought in 500 years, and where engineers had active plans in the 1950s and ’60s, under Atoms for Peace and President John F. Kennedy, to build large-scale nuclear desalination facilities for North America and desert locales worldwide. Former president of the American Nuclear Society Edward L. Quinn, in July, called for an urgent revival of nuclear desalination in California.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, founded in 1957, set up the Coordinated Research Project (CRP) in 1998, focused on “Optimization of the Coupling of Nuclear Reactors and Desalination Systems,” with a participation from nine member states. The program now has more than 20 countries cooperating, and is a potential framework, on stand-by, for expanded action. At the April 2012 Global Water Summit in Paris, numerous water specialists spoke out on behalf of the prospect of co-location of desalination and nuclear power units.

On Sept. 18, 2014, Russia hosted the first International Expert Council on Desalination, in Moscow, where Russia’s Rosatom Overseas nuclear export company stated its readiness to build or collaborate in building and operating nuclear desalination plants around the world.


* China General Nuclear Power (CGN) has the new Hogyanhe nuclear power project in the northeast, at Dalian in Liaoning Province, which will use waste heat to desalinate 10,080 cubic meters/day of seawater to provide its cooling water.

* ACP100 reactors. A commitment to R&D for a battery of small, modular nuclear reactors, for desalination and other applications in industry, as well as power generation, was begun in April 2011, by the joint venture called CNNC New Energy Corporation (51% CNNC, and China Guodian Corp.). Among the projects are: in Fukian Province (Zhangzhou City), two small, modular, integrated ACP 100 reactors; and ACP 100 reactors at two sites in Jiangxi Province (in Shangrao City and Ganzhou City); and for export.

* Chinese authorities are looking at a seawater desalination facility on the Shandong Peninsula, in the Yantai area, to produce up to 160,000 cubic meters/day by the MED process, using a NWt NHR-200 reactor.


* In southeast India in 2002, the Nuclear Desalination Demonstration project (NDDP) was set up, involving twin 170-MWe nuclear power reactors (PHWR) at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam. The NDDP’s desalination comes from a hybrid operation, involving a reverse osmosis (RO) unit (1,800 cubic meters/day capacity) and a multi-stage flash (MSF) plant unit of 4,500 cubic meters/day; and most recently a barge-mounted RO unit was added. This is the still world’s largest nuclear desalination plant based on the hybrid MF-RO technology, according to the World Nuclear Association.

* In Tamil Nadu, the go-ahead was given in April 2013 for a new desalination operation (MVC—mechanical vapor compression, with 7,200 cubic meters/day) to be set up at the nuclear power installation at Kudankulam, which already had in 2009, a 10,200- cubic-meter/day MVC plant, to supply fresh water to the reactor and to the town.


Desalination is integral to several innovative designs for floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) projects, under construction in Russia. Small units derived from Russian icebreakers—the KLT-40S reactors—can be either land-based or floating. A pair of such reactors can produce 85 MWe, and 120,000 cubic meters/day of potable water. There are several other configurations. One, known as the Volnolom FNPP, involves a pair of reactors, mounted on a 97-meter barge, with a reverse osmosis system, to produce 12 MWe, plus 40,000 cubic meters/day of potable water. A larger concept involves a 170-meter-long barge, pontoons, and larger reactors. This plant would have a service life of 60 years, and need overhaul after 20 years.


* Egypt. On Sept. 6, 2014, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in a national TV address, called for a $12 billion investment in power generation over the next five years. This pushes forward the existing commitment (going back to 1980) for completing the dual-purpose facility underway at Al-Dabaa, on the Mediterranean coast, for both power and desalinated seawater. The installation’s plans are for four 1,000-MWe-class reactors. As of 2010, the completion date was between 2019-2025. This project renews the commitment begun under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who founded and headed up Egypt’s Atomic Energy Commission in 1955. In the early 1960s, Egypt’s Institute of Atomic Energy built its first, small nuclear reactor (two megawatts) at Inshass, designed to produce both electricity and desalinated seawater. Subsequent scale-up plans for large-scale facilites—at Sidi Kreier, and elsewhere—were made, but repeatedly thwarted by Anglo/American foreign and internal opposition.

* Morocco. China collaborated on a pre-project study, for an Atlantic coast facility at Tan-Tan. It would use a 10-MWt heating reactor, and produce 8,000 cubic meters/day of potable water by MED. Russia has collaborated on plans for an initial nuclear reactor at Sidi Boulbra, scheduled for 2016-1017; Atomstroyexport is assisting in the feasibility studies.

* Algeria. A study was released in 2012 showing the benefits of locating a dual-purpose nuclear power desalination facility at Mostaganem, on the Western Algerian coast, where rainfall is very low. Goals were set for both power output in line with the national Indicative Program of Electricity Generation, and with meeting water needs of the region’s population, for 25 years beyond that projected for 2026.

* Libya. In 2007, a memorandum of understanding was signed with France, for a mid-sized nuclear reactor on the coast, coupled with seawater desalination. Areva TA was to supply this. This lapsed in the ensuing, bloody regime-change forced on the country.


* In Southwest Asia, the two new reactors to be built with Russia’s Rosatom in Iran’s southern Bushehr Province, are to be 1,000 MW each, and have two desalination units attached. On June 23, 2014, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced new details. The pre-existing Bushehr nuclear plant had designs in 1977 for a 200,000-cubic-meter/day MSF desalination plant, but it lapsed during the ensuing years of international contention.

In Jordan, there are active plans under study for nuclear power for both desalination and electricity.

* In the Persian Gulf, there are several active plans. Kuwait has under consideration cogeneration (power and water) projects, ranging up to producing 140,000 cubic meters/day, from a facility coupled with a 1,000-MWe reactors. The U.A.E. has four nuclear power plants under construction. Qatar has nuclear power desalination under consideration.

* In Southeast Asia, Indonesia has under consideration a large-scale facility in Batan. For Madura Island, a feasibility study has begun with South Korea, focusing on building a SMART nuclear reactor with a cogeneration unit using MSF.

South America

* In Argentina, on July 12, a nuclear power collaboration agreement was signed between Russia’s Rosatom, and the Argentine government, with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Argentina’s President Cristina De Kirchner stressing the deal at a press conference, which specifically is to include “water desalination facilities.” This latest accord is a follow-on to agreements already struck in 2010 and since, by Argentina with Russia, China, and South Korea. Russia’s Rosatom has submitted a technical and commercial proposal to participate in the construction of the Atucha-III nuclear plant.

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