Newcleo partners with London School of Economics

3 November 2023

UK-based nuclear technology company newcleo and the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) have signed a five-year partnership to conduct advanced research into the economics of energy policy. The initial interim findings will be published next year.

LSE will work to explore the economic benefits of technological innovation in facilitating the energy transition, driving clean economic growth and creating the good jobs of the future. Global power generation needs to triple by 2050, and newcleo says this partnership will “build a strong understanding of the most economically beneficial clean energy sources, as ongoing geopolitical events also continue to accelerate the need for both diversification and security of supply”.

Through the partnership, newcleo will support energy economics research and impact at LSE, with funding worth $1m ($1.06m) over five years. The agreement includes the appointment of three new postdoctoral Fellows in LSE’s Department of Geography & Environment. They will focus on critical areas of study, such as the economics of the energy transition; the economics of decarbonisation; the role of nuclear energy in achieving a sustainable energy landscape; energy market reform, and the geopolitics of energy supply and fossil fuel markets.

Key objectives of the agreed activities include the strengthening of LSE’s programmes on the economics of environmental, climate, and energy policy, which create policy-relevant research, and support for the next generation of researchers in energy economics. Newcleo says the partnership will also tap into LSE’s convening power, with extensive links to policy-makers, Parliament, finance and business, an unparalleled public events programme and location in the heart of London.

Newcleo, launched in September 2021, is headquartered in London with an international research and development centre in Turin, Italy. Privately funded newcleo initially announced its incorporation with the closing of a $118m initial capital raising and the acquisition of Hydromine Nuclear Energy. Newcleo then said its disruptive approach was based on the innovative application of well-developed technologies, including, (1) lead fast reactors (LFRs), which utilise lead as a coolant; (2) Accelerator Driven Systems (ADSs), based on coupling a sub-critical reactor with a particle accelerator; and (3) the use of natural thorium fuel.

The first step of newcleo’s delivery roadmap is the design and construction of the first-of-a-kind 30 MWe LFR to be deployed by 2030, rapidly followed by a 200 MWe commercial unit.

LSE Vice President and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Susana Mourato, said the partnership “aligns perfectly with LSE’s commitment to address global challenges through impactful social science research and collaboration”. It presents “a unique opportunity to develop new talent and cutting-edge research, supported by our renowned faculty and the expertise of the newcleo team, and bringing together energy and environment leaders, policy-makers and businesses”.

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.

Image: Stefano Buono, newcleo Chairman & CEO and Prof Eric Neumayer of LSE at the signing ceremony (courtesy of newcleo)

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