Water scarcity will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century. Desalination offers a way to create water from the sea.
The UN and many other Governments believe that water scarcity will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century. We live in a world with an increasingly unpredictable climate with both droughts and floods becoming the norm.
In much of the developed world, we’ve built dams and tapped aquifers to quench our thirst. Many of the people lacking access to freshwater live in the Middle East and Africa. Water resources in these regions already under strain, and this is only set to worsen as their populations continue to grow. We must look for new ways to bring water to both the developed and developing world.
97% of the Earth’s water is saltwater — only 3% is fresh (and much of that is frozen at the poles).
We live in a water world. Over 70% of the Earth is covered by oceans, and over half the world’s population lives near the coast. But less than 3% of the world’s water is freshwater fit for drinking or irrigation. With so many people living near the coast, what if it were possible to turn all that saltwater into something we could drink and use to water our crops?
The process that turns saltwater into freshwater is known as desalination, and is already a global industry. There are several desalination technologies available, but even the most efficient of them is still incredibly energy-intensive. When that energy comes from burning fossil fuels then the process releases a lot of carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change.
If large-scale desalination is to become a reality without increasing global warming, then we must choose our source of energy carefully.
Advanced nuclear power provides reliable, affordable and clean electricity.
Water for drinking.
Water for farming.
…even in times of record drought.
Abundant food and water for all with minimal harm to the environment, forever.
Nuclear is perfect for energy-intensive, continuous processes like desalination because, unlike intermittent wind and solar, it can be relied on 24/7, all-year round. Unlike fossil fuel plants though, nuclear is carbon-free.
The idea of nuclear desalination is far from new; it has been considered since the 1960’s. Nuclear energy brings the possibility of creating a constant stream of water to otherwise arid regions.
In 1967 Oak Ridge National Lab invited both Israeli and Egyptian engineers to work together to design large nuclear-powered agro-industrial complexes using nuclear power plants to produce electricity and fresh water, thus bringing life to places once thought uninhabitable.
Though the agro-industrial complexes were never built, the plans stand as a reminder of how even those who don’t always see eye-to-eye can still work together for the benefit of humanity. Should those plans be revisited, the possibility of clean growth in the desert can become reality.
Advanced Nuclear Power.
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About the Author: Robby Kile is a nuclear engineering student and research fellow at Generation Atomic whose interests lie in advanced reactor design, especially the non-power uses of reactors. Robby is a strong proponent of nuclear energy as a tool for fighting climate change and energy poverty around the world.