Westinghouse Electric Company and Ansaldo Nucleare have announced the signing of a cooperation agreement to develop a next-generation nuclear power plant based on lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) technology.
Wholly owned by Italy’s Ansaldo Energia, Ansaldo Nucleare is involved in the production of high-tech nuclear components; the design and construction of new builds; decommissioning; and advanced research on radwaste management, fusion, fourth-generation plants, and small modular reactors. In addition, the firm played a significant role in the development of such Generation III technologies as Westinghouse’s AP600 and AP1000 reactors.
Under the agreement, Westinghouse and Ansaldo Nucleare will advance a common design to maximize synergies; combine experience in design, testing, and licensing; and align respective partner and supply-chain organizations.
Signers’ language: “Ansaldo Nucleare shares a common vision with Westinghouse,” said Roberto Adinolfi, the Italian firm’s chairman, in the joint October 3 announcement. “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.”
Westinghouse’s chief technology officer, Rita Baranwal, noted, “The joint work we have accomplished already will serve as a springboard to accelerate LFR technology development. 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.”
The tech: According to the Generation IV International Forum—created in 2001 to develop the research necessary to test the feasibility and performance of fourth-generation nuclear systems and to make them available for deployment by 2030—LFRs “feature a fast neutron spectrum, high temperature operation, and cooling by either molten lead or lead-bismuth eutectic, both of which support low-pressure operation, have very good thermodynamic properties, and are relatively inert with regard to interaction with air or water. They would have multiple applications including production of electricity, hydrogen, and process heat.”
The objective of pursuing LFR deployment, say the companies, is “step change performance improvement relative to traditional nuclear technology, including enhanced economics, market versatility beyond electricity, and improved sustainability.”