Newcleo signs MOU with Nuclear AMRC

20 October 2023

UK-based nuclear technology company newcleo has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), a UK government-backed Technology Innovation Centre based at the University of Sheffield. The MOU establishes an outline for a collaborative partnership to drive forward manufacturability, supply chain, and development studies for pioneering nuclear technologies.

Newcleo says it is working to deliver innovative reactors, which will significantly reduce existing volumes of radioactive waste and plutonium, as well as end the need for further uranium mining for the long-term benefit of communities and the environment.

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.

This MOU between newcleo and the Nuclear AMRC establishes the foundation of a partnership for exploring a range of technical and business operations, including supply chain readiness assessments, investigation into potential supply chain partners, identification of entities for potential acquisition, modularisation studies, manufacturability and fabrication assessments, material and metallurgy studies, and any other future areas of interest that are in the scope of agreement between the two parties.

Newcleo Chairman & CEO Stefano Buono said: “This partnership provides support to the development of our end-to-end industrialisation strategy, as well as our business activities in the UK. This will play a helpful role in our mission of building a new competitive industrial standard in nuclear energy and providing safe solutions to energy and environmental challenges.”

Andrew Storer, Nuclear AMRC CEO, said advanced reactors such as newcleo’s “have a vital role to play in decarbonising electricity generation and energy-intensive industrial processes, and potential development in the UK will offer significant opportunities for nuclear-ready manufacturers to win work”. He added: “Our experience in manufacturing innovation and supply chain development will help them achieve their ambitions in the UK and worldwide.”

Newcleo, launched in 2021 and privately funded 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.

In June 2022, Newcleo announced the close of its €300m ($316m) equity raise. It also announced it had contracted France's Orano for feasibility studies on the establishment of a mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (mox) production plant. In March 2023 Newcleo signed a co-operation with Italy’s Enel to jointly work on its Generation IV nuclear technology projects. Enel agreed to 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.

This was rapidly followed by an equity raise of up to €1bn to fund the further development of its LFR designs and planned plants to manufacture fuel from nuclear waste. 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 signed an agreement 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.

Also, earlier in October Newcleo announced completion of its acquisition of Italy-based SRS. Servizi Ricerche e Sviluppo and of Fucina Italia jointly referred to as the “SRS-Fucina Group”. SRS and Fucina 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.

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: Cutaway of the TL-30 reactor design (courtesy of Newcleo)

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