This paper presents the collaboration between the French Atomic Energy Commission (Commissariat á l'Energie Atomique, CEA) and the Indian Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) on the use of nuclear reactors for desalination. The joint R&D effort aims at developing optimised nuclear desalination systems, producing large amounts of desalted water at the lowest cost and in a sustainable manner. It focuses on two areas: (a) development and validation of process models for thermal and membrane-based desalination plants; and (b) extraction of valuable materials from the concentrated brine rejected by water plants. The results achieved during phase I of the collaboration include the development, implementation and partial validation of models describing the behaviour of multi-effect evaporators (MEE) equipped with a mechanical vapour compression device (MVC), the assessment of the influence of the feed water properties on the performance of the reverse osmosis (RO) process and the identification of methods and protocols for the extraction of valuable materials from brine reject. This effort will continue during phase II of the project with a particular emphasis on model extension, validation and application. © 2011 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.