Can countries use nuclear desalination plants to end droughts?

According to the United Nations, communities on every continent are experiencing water shortages.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that our world is surrounded by oceans and seas, only around 2.5 percent of the water on Earth is fresh, and demand for drinking water is expected to outstrip availability by billions of cubic meters by 2030.

Desalination facilities, which remove salt from saltwater, may be able to assist meet the need for fresh water.

However, because they pump massive quantities over membranes at high pressure, which is a highly energy-intensive operation, these facilities are regarded among the most expensive means of producing drinking water.

Floating boats equipped with desalination equipment might be one extreme alternative.

These nuclear-powered ships may go to drought-stricken islands or beaches, carrying clean drinking water and power with them.

“You could have them going about on an intermittent basis, filling up tanks,” says Mikal Be, CEO of Core Power, which designed the desalination facility.

Although it may seem far-fetched, the US Navy has already supplied desalination services using nuclear-powered ships, and Russia already has a floating nuclear power plant that could theoretically power desalination facilities.

Across 20,000 desalination facilities exist around the world, virtually all of them are onshore. The majority are in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, with others in the United Kingdom, China, the United States, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia, to mention a few nations.

However, other experts believe that locating this desalination plant offshore, where seawater can be more easily piped onboard, might be less expensive.

Engineers have aspired to develop floating, nuclear-powered desalination devices for decades.

Core Power plans to deploy a vessel that resembles a tiny container ship, but with desalination technology stacked within. The nuclear reactor would subsequently be located in the center of the vessel, supplying the massive quantity of energy required.

Mr Be adds that the firm’s floating nuclear desalination boats might have power outputs ranging from five megawatts to about 70 megawatts. With five megawatts of nuclear power, it could pump out 35,000 cubic meters of freshwater each day, enough to fill 14 Olympic swimming pools.

Desalination technique forces treated seawater through a semi-permeable membrane at pressure to remove the salt from saltwater. The minerals are removed through osmosis, which is the flow of molecules in liquid across such membranes, leaving freshwater and brine, which is a salty water.

There are several variations of this technology, all of which have improved in efficiency over time. However, floating desalination systems are still uncommon.

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