Westinghouse and Ansaldo Nucleare to develop lead-cooled fast reactor technology

6 October 2022

Westinghouse Electric Company and Ansaldo Nucleare have signed a cooperation agreement to develop a next-generation NPP based on Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR) technology. The two companies will advance a common design to maximise synergies, combine experience in design, testing and licensing, and align respective partner and supply chain organisations. Westinghouse said the agreement builds upon development activities already underway in the UK, USA, Italy, and Romania, where more than ten state-of-the-art, lead-based test facilities are being installed.

LFR technology combines the use of liquid lead as a coolant, high-temperature operation, and fast neutron spectrum with engineering solutions promoting design simplicity and robustness. “The objective is step change performance improvement relative to traditional nuclear technology, including enhanced economics, market versatility beyond electricity and improved sustainability,” Westinghouse noted.

“Ansaldo Nucleare shares a common vision with Westinghouse,” said Dr Roberto Adinolfi, Ansaldo Nucleare’s Chairman. “Ansaldo has strongly believed and invested in LFR technology since the beginning of the century, and we are eager to start another journey of collaboration with Westinghouse toward its deployment.”

“The joint work we have accomplished already will serve as a springboard to accelerate LFR technology development,” said Dr Rita Baranwal, Chief Technology Officer of Westinghouse. “We are developing an economically competitive, versatile and sustainable nuclear power plant which will be deployed to accommodate the needs of diverse communities and evolving energy markets, including district heating, hydrogen generation, and water desalination.”

Ansaldo Nucleare has coordinated Euratom’s project ELSY (European Lead cooled SYstem) since its beginning in 2006. The project goal was the development of an innovative pre-conceptual design of an industrial lead-cooled fast reactor for electricity production based on a closed fuel cycle for enhanced sustainability.

Following ELSY completion (2010), in the frame of EU 7th framework programme, Ansaldo was appointed as leading organisation and coordinator of the LEADER project (Lead-cooled European Advanced DEmonstration Reactor). The LEADER project aimed to develop a conceptual design of a Lead Fast Reactor Industrial size plant (the European LFR – ELFR) and of a scaled demonstrator of the LFR technology called ALFRED (Advanced Lead Fast Reactor European Demonstrator).

The main goal behind ALFRED and Lead technology development is to maintain the nuclear energy source as an important contributor to the development of a secure and low carbon European energy system. ALFRED, as one of the projects supported by the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII), brings together industry and research partners in the development of Generation IV Fast Neutron Reactor technology, as part of the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan. In the role of European Technology Demonstrator Reactor (ETDR), ALFRED was designed to be fully representative of an industrial size reactor, but with a reduced thermal power. ALFRED is extensively based on the use of the defence in depth criteria, enhanced by the use of passive safety systems.

Our strong commitment and deep involvement in the LFR development was formalised through the signature of an unincorporated Consortium, namely FALCON (Fostering ALfred CONstruction), in Bucharest (2013). The Consortium includes Ansaldo Nucleare, ENEA and RATEN-ICN, plus CV-Rez since 2014.

Romania’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Business Environment has expressed the interest in hosting ALFRED and supporting the implementation of the demonstrator. 

It should be noted that, while all these projects aim at developing concepts and designs based on LFR technology, Russia is already building an LFR reactor – the Brest-OD-300 – as part of its ODEK demonstration project based on a closed fuel cycle under construction at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk. Installation of the reactor base plate began in July and the reactor is scheduled to begin operation in 2026.

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