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posted by janrinok on Wednesday June 22, @02:42AM   Printer-friendly

BBC - Could nuclear desalination plants beat water scarcity?

There are communities on every continent running short of water, according to the United Nations. Unfortunately, although our planet is swathed by oceans and seas, only a tiny fraction of Earth's water - about 2.5% - is fresh, and demand for drinking water is projected to exceed supply by trillions of cubic metres by 2030. Desalination plants, which remove the salt from seawater, could help supply the fresh water needed. However, these plants are considered among the most expensive ways of creating drinking water- as they pump large volumes across membranes at high pressure, which is an extremely energy intensive process. One radical solution could be using floating vessels equipped with desalination systems.

Powered by nuclear reactors, these vessels could travel to islands, or coastlines, struck by drought, bringing with them both clean drinking water and power. "You could have them moving around on an intermittent basis, filling up tanks," says Mikal Bøe, chief executive of Core Power, which has come up with design for this type of desalination plant.

It may sound far-fetched but the US Navy has provided desalination services during disasters in the past, with the help of its nuclear-powered ships, while Russia already has a floating nuclear power station designed to potentially power desalination facilities.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by bradley13 on Wednesday June 22, @10:57AM (4 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 22, @10:57AM (#1255312) Homepage Journal

    demand for drinking water...

    As always, these articles seem to totally ignore the elephant in the room. It's not about drinking water. Household usage is a small fraction of the water usage. Most water usage in the West is for agriculture. You just have to raise square miles of water-hungry almond trees in the desert, not to mention rice. California, Utah, New Mexico - basically all of the Western states have farmers raising crops that have no business in a desert.

    Those farmers get water for free (in many cases) or for a fraction of the price paid by residential users.

    On top of that, water has fundamentally been misallocated. For example, water rights to the Colorado River were set almost a century ago, optimistically based on the flow during several wet years. The numbers are simply wrong - there isn't that much water in the river in normal years, much less during periodic droughts.

    The solution is simple, if politically impossible: All consumers pay the same price for water. As soon as big agricultural concerns see their costs rise to something reasonable for a desert, they will change to different crops, or move elsewhere.

    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
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  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday June 22, @03:07PM

    by Freeman (732) on Wednesday June 22, @03:07PM (#1255367) Journal

    So much that. I still remember my grandparents when I was kid, conserving water in California. The problem, isn't the people using it, it's the corporations using it.

    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @05:43PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, @05:43PM (#1255415)

    Trying to grow lush green grass lawns in the desert doesn't help either.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Hartree on Wednesday June 22, @06:21PM (1 child)

    by Hartree (195) on Wednesday June 22, @06:21PM (#1255422)

    You've hit on the one thing that may be politically harder than building nuclear power plants or long-distance high-tension lines.

    These water wars have been going on without respite for over a century in the west and I doubt we'll see much hope in politics. Technical solutions are easier, but still hard because of artificial political barriers. (Example: why keep using spray irrigation when drip irrigation is far more water efficient? Well, because we've always done it that way and if we use less water, we'll get our allocation cut. Welcome to Catch 22).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @04:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, @04:41AM (#1255525)

      You can bet your bottom dollar that if the roles were reversed and California farmers had to cut back so that Colorado farmers could get 'their share' it would have been fixed a century ago.