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Potable Water from the Seas with Nuclear Energy


Although worldwide availability of potable water exceeds substantially the amount of water consumed, the world's water resources are not evenly distributed. More and more countries need to provide for drinking water from seawater. Increasingly, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is receiving requests from its Member States to look into the use of nuclear reactors for seawater desalination. Based on the completion of international studies on this subject, the IAEA is now convening an "International Symposium on Desalination of Seawater with Nuclear Energy" in Taejon, Republic of Korea, from 26 to 30 May 1997.

There has been a significant increase in the installation of seawater desalination facilities in past decades worldwide using conventional energy sources. Many regions and countries are expected to expand their seawater desalination capacity. The various incentives which in the past have led to the deployment of nuclear energy for electric power generation are being looked to now also for seawater desalination. They include: economic competitiveness, energy supply diversification, conservation of limited fossil fuel resources, technological development and environmental protection through the elimination of emissions causing acid rain and climate changes originating from the burning of fossil fuels.

As early as in the 1960s, the IAEA surveyed the feasibility of using nuclear energy for seawater desalination and held an international symposium in 1968. Since then, no international forum has been made available for discussion and information exchange on this subject.

In 1989, renewed interest in utilizing nuclear energy for seawater desalination by several IAEA Member States led to a resolution at the IAEA's General Conference, requesting the Secretariat to proceed with studies to assess the technical and economic potential of nuclear power for seawater desalination in the light of recent experience. This interest has been confirmed since then through a resolution on nuclear desalination passed every year by the IAEA General Conference.

Several feasibility studies regarding the use of nuclear energy for seawater desalination have been conducted with the participation and support of interested Member States. In addition to the IAEA's studies, several bilateral and national activities on nuclear desalination are in progress to prove its feasibility and economic value for seawater desalination.

The IAEA's International Symposium on Desalination of Seawater with Nuclear Energy in Taejon, Republic of Korea, will summarize the global potable water needs, present an update on state-of-the-art desalination system technologies, and inform on relevant activities of selected international organizations. It will present the status of ongoing and planned national programmes and activities in nuclear seawater desaliniation.

The symposium will also give an overview of the design and safety of nuclear reactors for desalination, rhe different desalination technologies, as well as integration of nuclear reactors with desalination systems. The participants will discuss the experience in operation, maintenance, impact on the environment of desalination plants, water production costs and cost comparisons, as well as of future opportunities for desalination systems using nuclear energy. There will be a discussion of the possible market for desalination systems using nuclear energy, the possible demand for such desalination systems, and the potential user's positions.

Journalists wishing to cover the Symposium are invited to send an accreditation request by mail or fax: either to the IAEA, Division of Public Information (fax +43 1 2060 29610) or the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, Office of International Cooperation (fax + 82 42 862 8465) by 9 May 1997.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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