A New Consortium For Deploying Lead-Cooled SMRs

On 8 November, five companies leading research and innovation in heavy liquid metal technology joined forces to boost the implementation and the industrial deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) using Lead Fast Reactor Technology.

Ansaldo Nucleare, SCK CEN, Westinghouse (ENS Corporate Members), ENEA and RATEN-ICN signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the next demonstration steps.

First, a small-size reactor to demonstrate the technological and engineering aspects of the commercial SMR-LFR will be developed at SCK CEN facilities in Mol, Belgium.

Meanwhile, the consortium will continue developing and building the ALFRED (Advanced Lead-cooled Fast Reactor European Demonstrator) project in Pitești, Romania, aimed at developing a Generation IV Lead-cooled Fast Neutron Reactor (LFR) demonstrator, led by Ansaldo Nucleare, ENEA, RATEN-ICN and other European organizations within the FALCON Consortium.

Finally, the Lead-cooled Fast Reactor design will be developed by Westinghouse and will be the starting point for this project ultimately targeting its global commercialization.

Lead-cooled fast reactors have passive safety features and a more efficient nuclear fuel use than other reactors, reducing then the amount of long-lived radioactive waste, the consortium said.

Read more on SCK CEN Press Release.

The development of nuclear technologies using liquid metal as a coolant involves the signatories companies in several other projects.

Last year, Ansaldo Nucleare and Westinghouse signed a cooperation agreement to develop LFR technology, and a new milestone was achieved in May 2023, with the completion of the first testing campaign at the Passive Heat Removal Facility in the UK. The testing campaign advances within Phase 2 of the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) programme partially funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

As already mentioned, Ansaldo is also building the ATHENA (Advanced Thermo-Hydraulics Experiment for Nuclear Application) facility at the RATEN-ICN research centre, which will host scale components for testing and demonstration of LFR technology, so playing a key role in supporting the abovementioned ALFRED project.

In May 2022, SCK CEN received funding from the Belgian government to conduct research into small modular reactors (SMRs) not using water as a coolant, but liquid metal or a gas. Furthermore, the Belgian research centre can benefit from the development pathway of MYRRHA (Multipurpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications), the SCK CEN new multi-purpose research plant which will use lead-bismuth as a coolant.