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How nuclear desalination could tackle drought

Joanne Parkinson

21st June 2022

Demand for drinking water is projected to exceed supply by trillions of cubic metres by 2030, due to increasing global population and threats to supply caused by climate change.

One solution to increase freshwater supplies is desalination of saltwater. There are already 20,000 desalination schemes globally, but the cost and energy use for these schemes is high. A new strategy involving desalination will see floating vessels equipped with desalination equipment, which could be sent to areas at risk of drought. The plan is to have the vessels powered by nuclear reactors, which will also be able to provide an energy supply to these stricken locations.

The company behind this strategy is Core Power and whilst the idea is radical, it has worked in the past; with the US Navy having previously provided desalination services via their nuclear powered ships.

Most desalination plants around the world are onshore facilities. But scientists believe that it would be cheaper and more effective to have desalination plants located offshore, where seawater can be processed and then freshwater pumped onto land.

A second engineering firm, Oisann Engineering, has created a system called Waterfountain. Whilst the strategy of using buoys and large ships would be similar to the floating vessel system designed by Core Power, they are opting for subsea desalination; whereby high ocean floor pressure and gravity is used rather than nuclear energy.

For more on these technological developments, check out the news report from the BBC.

Joanne Parkinson

An experienced, outstanding Geography teacher, GCSE examiner and Head of Humanities in a 11-18 school. I'm passionate about all geographical events and am a keen blogger.

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