UK-based nuclear technology company newcleo has signed three strategic partnerships at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris with Assystem, Ingérop and Onet Technologies to develop its lead-cooled fast reactor and innovative fuel in France. This is the latest in a long line of acquisitions and agreements undertaken since the company was established in 2021.

Newcleo says it was selected as part of the “Innovative Nuclear Reactors” call for projects under the “France 2030” investment planand aims to commission a 30 MWe lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR 30) by 2030, as well as a pilot unit for the manufacture and multi-recycling of mixed oxide (mox) fuel for fast reactors. The project represents a total investment in France of €3bn ($3.3bn) between now and 2030.

The new partnerships are intended to achieve these objectives “and help accelerate the decarbonisation of the French economy and French and European industrial and energy sovereignty”. Assystem, is a major player in the energy transition and the third largest independent nuclear engineering company in the world, Ingérop, a major player in the engineering sector, and Onet Technologies, a French nuclear industry expert.

Ludovic Vandendriesche, Managing Director of newcleo SA, commented: “We are very pleased to be able to rely on the proven expertise of Assystem, Ingérop and Onet Technologies for the development of our lead-cooled fast reactor and innovative fuel plant. By partnering with these companies, which have set the standard for French nuclear engineering, newcleo is arming itself with the best technical skills needed to tackle the next phase of its development”.

To support both newcleo’s mox fuel manufacturing and multi-recycling project and the development of the LFR reactor, Assystem will provide its expertise in digital engineering structuring and tooling, integration (technical coordination and systems engineering), nuclear safety and project management. Assystem may also work on some business areas. Thomas Branche, Executive Vice-President of Assystem, said newcleo “is carrying out one of the most ambitious development projects for advanced modular reactors”. He added: “We have already been working on this project for six months, and the partnership … will help to ensure the success of this innovative project.”

The framework agreement with Ingérop will contribute expertise to the design and construction of the LFR 30 reactor and the fuel manufacturing plant including project management, civil engineering & industrial architecture, geotechnical engineering, external works, organisation of site facilities, systems engineering, 3D modelling, and building information modelling.

Onet Technologies, a subsidiary of the Onet Group, is a nuclear engineering and services company whose main mission is to support nuclear players throughout the life cycle of nuclear facilities, from the development of new nuclear projects, engineering and maintenance services for nuclear facilities, to decommissioning and radioactive waste management. To support newcleo in the commissioning of a 30 MWe demonstration and irradiation reactor and a fuel fabrication plant, Onet Technologies is deploying expertise in three main areas:

  • Mechanics and mechatronics, with the design of mechanical components for the reactor’s core and the design of safety-related equipment for maintenance and operation;
  • General installation studies, including functional and layout studies, studies of nuclear ventilation systems, fire protection and sizing of nuclear fluid systems; and
  • Nuclear safety, security and licensing by providing analysis and simulation expertise.

Newcleo initially announced its incorporation with the closing of a $118m initial capital raising and the acquisition of Hydromine Nuclear Energy. In June 2022, it closed a €300m equity raise and contracted France's Orano for feasibility studies on the establishment of a mox production plant. In March 2023 a co-operation agreement was signed with Italy’s Enel to jointly work on its nuclear technology projects. Enel agreed to provide specialised expertise and newcleo agreed to secure an option for Enel as first investor in its first NPP.

This was rapidly followed by an equity raise of up to €1bn to fund further development. In July Newcleo signed an agreement with Italy-based shipbuilder Fincantieri and certification multinational RINA, also based in Italy, to jointly study nuclear applications to the shipping industry. In August newcleo agreed to purchase the shares of nuclear pumps group Pompes Rütschi SAS and Rütschi Fluid AG and in September signed an MOU with the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) This outlined a framework for collaboration on advanced nuclear research and development.

October saw Newcleo sign a cooperation agreement with the Tosto Group, a manufacturer of large components and pressure equipment in the chemicals, oil & gas and energy sectors, including nuclear. Newcleo also announced completion of its acquisition of Italy-based Servizi Ricerche e Sviluppo and of Fucina Italia, which focus on the design and building of nuclear systems deploying liquid lead technology. Newcleo said the acquisition was a significant milestone in its global strategy to create a global manufacturing capability through a mix of European suppliers, key partnerships and acquisitions. In November newcleo signed a five-year partnership with the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) to conduct advanced research into the economics of energy policy.

Newcleo says its mission “is to generate safe, clean, economic and practically inexhaustible energy for the world, through a radically innovative combination of existing, accessible technologies”. It claims to “capitalise on 30 years of R&D activity in metal-cooled fast reactors and liquid-lead cooling systems. Newcleo says its reactor design “has been optimised over the last 20 years leading to the concept of an ultra-compact and transportable 200 MWe module with improvements in energy density compared to other technologies”.

Currently, however, the only operating liquid metal-cooled fast reactors are in Russia, using sodium as the coolant. Russia is also constructing the world’s first lead-cooled small modular reactor (Brest-OD-300) in Seversk as part of a facility to demonstrate an on-site closed fuel cycle, including novel fuel fabrication. This reactor, based on decades of complex research and development, and supported by the entire Russian nuclear industry, is due to begin operation in 2029. It remains to be seen whether newcleo, despite its growing list of acquisitions and co-operation agreements, will be able to meet its target of deploying a LFR in France in 2030.