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Application of Innovative Nuclear Reactor Concepts for Seawater Desalination in southern Europe


The EURODESAL project addresses the problem of medium and long-term water shortages in the South European countries and in other regions of the world. Conservative estimates already indicate that for the Mediterranean region alone there would be a shortage of about 10 million m3/day in 2020.

In this context, seawater desalination is considered an attractive and sustainable solution to meet the ever-increasing water demands. However, desalination is an energy intensive process that brings with it a demand for additional generating capacity. Over the long term, desalination with fossil energy sources would neither be practical nor desirable: fossil fuels reserves are finite and must be conserved for other essential uses whereas demands for desalted water would continue to increase; furthermore, the combustion of fossil fuels would produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and toxic emissions. A sustainable solution could thus only be provided by nuclear energy, and to a certain extent, by renewable energy systems.

EURODESAL basically aims to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of seawater desalination with innovative nuclear reactors, (e.g. the GT-MHR and the AP-600), presenting enhanced safety features and cost advantages.

Major objectives of the project are:
- Coherent demonstration of the technical feasibility of nuclear desalination through the development of technical principles for optimum cogeneration of electricity and water and by exploring the unique capabilities of the innovative nuclear reactors and desalination technologies;
- Objective assessment of the competitiveness and sustainability of proposed solutions and through comparison with fossil and renewable energy based solutions;
- Enlargement of the role of nuclear energy and its increased public acceptance by meeting a fundamental human need, water;
- Maintaining the competitive position of EU industrials in the world market through the exportation of viable nuclear desalination systems.

The project comprises 5 Work packages (WPs), specifically tailored to meet the above technical and economical objectives. WP-1 is devoted to the elaboration of optimised coupling schemes for the GT-MHR and the AP-600. For comparison purposes, a reference, operational nuclear reactor, the PWR 900 MWe has been included. Technical verification of the integrated systems will be carried out by detailed heat and mass balance calculations, which so far have not been published in the literature.

WP2 will provide a preliminary safety assessment of the coupled systems developed in WP1. After an identification of possible operational and accidental situations, specific to the coupling of the nuclear reactor to the desalination process, analysis will be made with well-known and qualified codes to check the feasibility of the proposed systems.

WP3 on fissile and renewable energy based desalination systems is designed to bring an element of comparison of the performances of the conventional desalination systems as opposed to nuclear desalination technologies. As in WP1, a verification of the fossil and renewable energy based integrated systems will be made by a calculation of heat and mass balances.

WP4 will provide the detailed cost estimates for all the integrated systems. Power costs will be calculated with the CEA codes system SEMER and desalination costs with IAEA's code, DEEP/V2, which is now internationally used. A sustainability assessment will be made for the most promising systems.
WP5 will ensure the overall management of the project as well as the concretisation of the desired objectives in the form of appropriate documents.

It is expected that at the end of the project sufficient technical data, and economical motivation will be available in a coherent form to lay the foundations of a more detailed nuclear desalination project for the South of Europe and, possibly, other parts of the world.

Call for proposal

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Cea-ce cadarache bat. 212
13108 St.paul les durance

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EU contribution
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Participants (7)