According to the World Nuclear Association’s website, “Small and medium sized nuclear reactors are suitable for desalination, often with cogeneration of electricity using low-pressure steam from the turbine and hot sea water feed from the final cooling system. The main opportunities for nuclear plants have been identified as the 80-100,000 m3/day and 200-500,000 m3/day ranges.”
There are numerous examples of nuclear desalination being considered. In 1977, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility was to also have a 200,000 cubic meter/day MSF desalination plant. Construction delays, and the subsequent Islamic revolution, prevented this from occurring. Perhaps when Iran commences its civilian nuclear program, the desalination plant will be revived. China is reviewing the feasibility of a nuclear seawater desalination plant in the Yantai area. Russia has advanced a nuclear desalination project with barge-mounted marine reactors using Canadian reverse-osmosis technology. India has begun operating a nuclear desalination demonstration plant at the Madras Atomic Power Station in southeast India. Another one may soon follow in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which perpetually suffers from water shortages. Pakistan continues its efforts to set up a demonstration desalination plant. South Korea has developed a small nuclear reactor design for cogeneration of electricity and water. It may first be tested on Madura Island in Indonesia. Argentina has also developed a small nuclear reactor design for electricity cogeneration or solely for desalination.
The Saudis have investigated dual use for nearly thirty years. Since 1978, Saudi scientists have studied nuclear desalination plants in Kazakhstan and Japan. Both studies positively assessed the feasibility of bringing the first dual-use nuclear reactor in Saudi Arabia. Since the mid 1980s, scientists and researchers at the Saudi’s Nuclear Engineering Department at King Abdulaziz University, the College of Engineering at the University of Riyadh, the Chemical Engineering Department of King Saud University, and the Atomic Energy Research Institute have researched and evaluated nuclear desalination. Saudi scientists presented their paper, entitled, ‘Role of Nuclear Desalination in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,’ at the First International Conference on Nuclear Desalination in Morocco in October 2002.
The country possesses a tandetron accelerator and a cyclotron capable of isotope production for medical purposes. Saudi’s nuclear scientists have been involved with many countries to help their country develop a bonafide nuclear energy program. In late March 2006, a German magazine reported Saudi Arabia has been secretly working on a nuclear program with help from Pakistani scientists. Ironically, many believe Saudi Arabia helped finance Pakistan’s nuclear program. Because Saudi scientists lack the proven experience of the entire nuclear fuel cycle, Pakistan’s expertise, over the past decade, could help accelerate the Kingdom’s pursuit of a civilian nuclear program.