Enel and newcleo partner on Generation IV reactors

16 March 2023

Italy’s Enel Group and UK-based nuclear technology company newcleo have signed a cooperation agreement to jointly work on newcleo’s Generation IV nuclear technology projects. Enel will provide specialised expertise by sharing a number of the company’s qualified personnel. Newcleo agreed to secure an option for Enel as first investor in its first NPP, which it will build outside Italy.

The first step of newcleo’s delivery roadmap is “to design and construct a first-of-a-kind mini 30 MWe lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) to be deployed in France by 2030”. Newcleo says this will be rapidly followed by a 200 MWe commercial unit in the UK. At the same time, newcleo will directly invest in a mixed uranium / plutonium oxide (mox) plant to fuel its reactors.

Enel CEO Francesco Starace said the collaboration with newcleo “is the latest example of our tireless search for the best companies to join us on our journey towards a clean future and we look forward to supporting newcleo in its challenging but promising roadmap”. He added: “Innovation is crucial to the development of technologies that can secure clean, reliable, affordable energy that is as independent as possible from geopolitical factors. For this reason, we continue to explore any area of the energy spectrum that can contribute to enabling a sustainable future.”

Stefano Buono, CEO of newcleo said the company’s fast reactor technology “is the necessary step in the nuclear industry to enable multiple recycling of already extracted uranium and a massive reduction in nuclear waste”. In addition, “the use of lead opens the possibility to safer and cheaper reactor operating”. He noted Enel’s “relentless work in developing advanced and innovative technologies, including through collaborations activated with startups from all over the world, taking advantage of a pervasive network of Enel Innovation Hubs and laboratories active in three continents”.

Newcleo, launched in 2021, 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 the only operating liquid metal-cooled fast reactors are in Russia, using sodium as the coolant. However, 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.

Image: Enel Group and technology company newcleo have signed a collaboration agreement to develop newcleo’s fourth-generation nuclear projects (courtesy of newcleo)

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