UK firm develops nuclear-powered desalination ship concept

Core Power, the UK firm developing atomic propulsion solutions, has unveiled a new business line for shipping, floating desalination plants.

While land-based desalination plants have been built all over the world including Australia, North Africa and Saudi Arabia the cost of construction, maintenance and provision of fuel for these facilities is expensive and they also use fossil fuels for power, Core Power pointed out in a new report issued today.

Using floating desalination facilities built on traditional ship hulls, powered by micro reactors, the concept vessels can provide both desalinated water and electrical power, Core Power suggested.

These self-propelled vessels could produce potable water at a rate of between 60,000 and 450,000 cu m per day, matching the scale of existing land-based desalination facilities.

The ships would benefit from the efficiencies of shipyard construction, decreasing deployment time and cost while being flexible in their movement, meaning they would be able to quickly scale up and down dependent on need, Core Power argued.

“Of all the problems we face, the global freshwater emergency is going to be the most precarious. We will need long-term, sustainable, and flexible solutions to ensure we can provide potable water to where and when it is needed at a massive scale,” said Mikal Bøe, chairman and CEO or Core Power.

“Core Power floating nuclear-powered desalination facilities could provide fresh water to all littoral states, safely, sustainably and without emissions. The dramatic changes in weather patterns means that rapid deployment is essential, without the years of planning and construction needed to build land-based desalination plants,” added Bøe .

While conventional ship hulls offer the flexibility of deployment and easier transits between locations, floating structures can offer more resistance to adverse weather effects.

The Core Power water solution is designed based on a ship hull containing a floating nuclear reactor and reverse osmosis water desalination systems.

Core Power modelling considering changes in climate and growing population expects the global desalination demand to reach 266m cu m per day by 2050.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. As a concept that Is beautiful.

    My thinking goes to collecting rain in the Pacific Ocean. Filling those huge tankers with fresh water and delivering it to parched cities around the world would be magnificent. You could use a water catchment system that unfurls to channel great quantities. This is the purest water yet.

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