More funding for Swedish-Canadian lead-cooled reactor

27 January 2017

Licensing and construction of a demonstration SEALER (Swedish Advanced Lead Fast Reactor) in Canada is progressing following funding of $200m from Essel Group Middle East, technology company LeadCold said, as part of an investment and financing agreement signed on 20 January.

In October last year, Essel Group ME (a subsidiary of Indian multinational conglomerate Essel Group) announced it had agreed to invest $18m in LeadCold to enable LeadCold to complete a pre-licensing design review of the SEALER reactor with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and to aid research and development efforts necessary to obtain a licence to build commercial SEALER units in Canada.

LeadCold is the brainchild of Janne Wallenius, a Swedish reactor physicist and professor at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. He co-founded the company LeadCold Reactors in 2013, which designs small lead-cooled fast SEALER reactors intended for commercial power production in Arctic communities.

"Using advanced technology, small nuclear reactors may provide clean and safe base-load energy in locations where today diesel power is the only choice, such as in Arctic regions, remote islands, off-grid communities, mining and the shipping industry," LeadCold said, adding that diesel generators are responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The reactor is designed to generate 3-10MWe over 10-30 years without refuelling. After operation, the first SEALER units will be transported to a centralised recycling facility. LeadCold says its engineers have developed novel aluminium steel alloys that are highly corrosion-resistant in contact with liquid lead. This, the company claims, "addresses the major obstacle having hampered the commercial implementation of this technology".

In late December, the CNSC agreed to conduct phase 1 of a vendor design review for the SEALER design concept.  The objective of the review is to verify the acceptability of a design with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations, as well as Canadian codes and standards. It does not certify the design or involve the issuing of a licence. The review is estimated to take 15 months, according to LeadCold's schedule for submissions.

Also in December, LeadCold signed a roadmap agreement with KIC InnoEnergy - the European company for innovation in sustainable energy - to work together to commercialise the use of SEALER in off-grid applications.

LeadCold aims to obtain a licence to construct a demonstration SEALER unit in Canada by the end of 2021. It anticipates having the unit ready for operation in 2025. The company estimates the future cost of purchasing a SEALER reactor at CAD100m ($76m).

However, LeadCold’s claims that SEALER will be the world’s first lead-cooled fast reactor are in some doubt, given that Russia intends to begin construction of its 300MWe lead-cooled BREST fast reactor at the end of this year or early 2018 for operation in 2024. 



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