An international overview of economics of nuclear desalination


As a viable option to meet water scarcity and mitigate the adverse environmental impact caused by large-scale desalination plants using other fuel sources, the economics of seawater desalination using nuclear energy is yet to be realized through large commercial plants. Recent research from ten IAEA Member States participated in a 3-year long Coordinated Research Programme (CRP), including techno-economic feasibility studies carried out for specific sites, showed that nuclear desalination is a possible and in some cases the only viable solution to on-going water scarcity. Results of the CRP, to be highlighted on this paper, include various configurations of different reactor sizes and technologies and both thermal and electrical desalination processes. Results of sensitivity analysis of water cost based on current economic status and trends, and using the newly released desalination economic evaluation program (DEEP 4), demonstrate that nuclear desalination can be an economically attractive option, as compared with conventional fossil fuel-based desalination systems. Crucial parameters affecting water cost have been analysed e.g the effect of capital and fuel costs over the water cost. It was found that nuclear desalination maintained its competence even in economically unstable conditions and it is the one of the best alternatives for long term water production, compared to volatile fossil fuel-based solutions. Finally, an overview of IAEA activities related to seawater desalination using nuclear energy is also presented.

3rd Maghreb Conference of Desalination and Water Treatment