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A new source of water: Floating nuclear power plants

Channel the heat from power plants to give water to a thristy world. That's the idea of a physicist from the Sont Longowal Institute in Punjab, India.

Nuclear power plants have a lot of excess heat, so why not use that heat to make fresh water?

That's the idea of S.S. Verma, with the Department of Physics at the Sont Longowal Institute in Punjab, India. If located offshore near large population centers, the plants could provide cheap electricity as well as fresh water to megacities like Mumbai.

Some companies are already looking at developing desalination platforms that can be attached to nuclear plants, he said, according to the Indo-Asian News Service (via Earthtimes). (Verma's complete paper can be found here.)

The general and very serious concerns about nuclear power--what do you do about transportation of nuclear materials? Disposal and storage? Safety?--of course apply. But it's also an interesting idea. Nuclear plants do produce a lot of waste heat. Many believe that hydrogen could become economical if the waste heat from these plants could be used to crack water molecules to produce the gas.

Some companies in Canada are contemplating installing nuclear power plants near the tar sands deposits in Alberta to produce hydrogen, a necessary ingredient for turning the goopy tar into usable liquid fuel.

The world is mired in a water crisis. In many large cities in India, people wait in line to get water from roving trucks. Droughts and crop failures are expected to increase as global temperatures rise. And it's not just in the emerging world. Australia is suffering through a prolonged shortage of water.

Desalination provides an avenue out of it, but conventional methods are expensive and somewhat time consuming.

Other water purification ideas out there include better membranes (from start-up Nano H20) better purification ponds (a la Aqwise) and simulated evaporation and condensation from Altela.