A Nuclear Solution
to the Water Problem
Creating fresh water from seawater - Consolidated Nuclear Reactor
Water is essential to all living creatures. The problem of a water shortage is getting worse and worse. It is a wonder that we lack water when 70 percent of the earth is covered by it.
Some 97.5 percent of the water on earth is seawater, while fresh water accounts for only 2.5 percent. Of the fresh water, 70 percent exists in the form of icebergs along Greenland and the continent of Antarctica. Other fresh water exists underground or where humans cannot access it. We can use only 0.007 percent of the water on earth. And such potable water is concentrated in certain regions or nations.
One of the main reasons for the water shortage is that precipitation is concentrated in certain areas. For this reason, six million hectares of land, which is equal to two-thirds of the South Korean territory, turns into desert every year. The nation has been included among the 20 nations the United Nations has designated for suffering from water shortage.
Two-thirds of the precipitation comes in the summer season and it is difficult to contain the water, as the nation? streams are shallow.
In the face of the aggravating water shortage problem, people have begun to turn their eyes to the seawater covering the earth. Seawater is 3.5 percent salt in composition and it becomes drinkable only when the salt content is lowered to 0.05 percent. As a matter of fact, some nations in desert areas like the Middle East have already been using fresh water distilled from seawater.
There are some methods of making fresh water from seawater. The common way is to distill salt water to get fresh water. Eighty percent of the fresh water manufacturing facilities in the Middle East now uses such a method. Another way is to purify water through screening filters. Another way they separate water from salt is by freezing seawater.
All of the methods need a considerable amount of energy in the form of heat and electricity, which requires fossil fuel like oil, coal or natural gas. Now,
the equivalent of 20 million kilowatts of energy is used for the transformation of salt water to fresh water around the world. But the fossil fuels are running dry while the environmental problems resulting from global warming are worsening.
To find a solution to the problems, efforts have been made to utilize nuclear power to generate fresh water from seawater. Turbines with steam created from the nuclear chain reaction is used to boil seawater. Such a method using a nuclear reactor began in 1990, initiated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The result of the research shows that such a method has bright prospects. Many scientists from Korea and other nations have engaged in brisk research activities to extract fresh water from salt water by using nuclear reactors.
Small and medium-sized nuclear reactors will be preferred to generate fresh water from seawater, rather than the big ones used for the current nuclear power plants. The nation has been modifying big-sized nuclear reactors to generate electricity and fresh water from seawater since 1997. Korea has also been developing the small and medium reactors called SMART. SMART is a multipurpose reactor that can generate 90,000KW of electricity a day with the ability to turn 40,000 tons of seawater into fresh water. This means the reactor can supply water and electricity to a city with a population of 100,000. The possible successful development of SMART will help find a solution to the water problems haunting island nations like Indonesia and desert nations in the Middle East.
Besides Korea, many nations have also been exerting efforts to develop technology to generate fresh water from seawater. Morocco, for instance, has been seeking to introduce a facility for the production of 8,000 tons of drinkable water through small-sized reactors now being developed by China. China plans to set up a nuclear reactor in Dalian to transform 150,000 tons of seawater into fresh water every day.
Russia is also planning to set up a plant to generate fresh water from seawater by modifying small-sized reactors originally developed for ice breaking. Atomic power, which has been stably supplying electricity is now emerging as the hope to resolve the water problem facing humankind. nw
Researchers work on the development of the consolidated nuclear reactor designed to extract water from salt water in order to solve a water shortage in the world.