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British Firm Preparing Nuclear-Powered Floating Desalination Plants

The global desalination market was valued at $14.5 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $35.5 billion by 2030. Desalination facilities are, at the moment, mainly situated in Southwest Asia, with significant clusters in Australia, China, and the United States. Global desalination demands are expected to reach 266 million cubic meters per day by 2050. To meet the demand, it will be required to make a significant increase in the deployment of desalination facilities worldwide. Therefore, the private British-based maritime and technology innovation company CORE POWER has been working on the idea to “partner desalination technology with the next generation of nuclear reactors,” according to its April 11, 2022 report “The Future of Water: Nuclear Powered, Floating Water Desalination.”

CORE POWER has designed “nuclear-powered floating desalination structures based on existing ship hulls…. The next generation of nuclear reactors such as the molten salt reactors (MSR) and heat pipe reactors (HPR) present a step-change in nuclear safety and security. Both these reactors are low-pressure systems vastly reducing the risks of contact with radioactive material. They are also small enough to use modular shipyard construction, decreasing build time and cost. These reactors, having both modularity and walk away safety by design, will be able to provide cheaper and safer nuclear power.… The first using a molten salt reactor producing 80 MW of electricity could provide a maximum of 450,000 per cubic meters of drinkable water per day, in a Panamax size hull. Smaller deployments using a heat pipe reactor with a power of 10 MW could produce up to 60,000 m³ of water per day in a feeder type hull.”

CORE POWER modeling calculated that these facilities could create freshwater at a cost of $0.7 per cubic meter, a 23% reduction from current costs.

Besides providing water and electricity to islands and coastal cities, “floating desalination will also be able to play an important role in disaster relief scenarios where the provision of clean water and electricity could vastly reduce human suffering.… There are currently 3.6 billion people globally suffering from water scarcity—the CORE POWER concept could help bring this down, saving and improving lives globally.”

CORE POWER is in the process of developing a floating nuclear power plant featuring molten chloride fast reactors in collaboration with TerraPower, Southern Company from the U.S. and Orano of France, a nuclear fuel cycle company. A demonstration reactor is planned for 2026 with the aim to commercialize the vessel product by the start of the next decade.