Westinghouse planning to work towards a lead cooled fast reactor prototype in about 2035

Westinghouse is seeking to collaborate with the US Department of Energy (DOE) on the development of a lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR). It will be the company’s first foray into fourth generation reactor designs.

The company announced on 8 October that it had submitted a project proposal for the LFR under the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Industry.

The Westinghouse LFR would be “designed to achieve new levels of energy affordability, safety and flexibility”, the company said. In addition to featuring accident-tolerant fuel, the reactor’s use of lead as a coolant “will further enhance reactor safety, and optimize the plant’s economic value through lower construction costs and higher operating efficiency than other technologies”, it said.

In addition to electricity generation, the Westinghouse LFR could be used for hydrogen production and water desalination, the company noted. It also said the reactor’s load-following capabilities “would further support the increased use of renewable energy sources”.

The DOE was soliciting proposals by 5 October for cost-shared advanced reactor concept development projects with the potential to be demonstrated in the 2035 timeframe.

Through its Advanced Reactor Industry Competition for Concept Development funding opportunity, the DOE will partner with industry to fund up to two awards of some $6 million each in financial year 2015. The department said it will invest up to $3.6 million in each project, with a federally funded research and development centre providing up to an additional $2.4 million. Recipients will be required to invest $1.5 million as part of the cost share. The funding opportunity allows for multiple-year funding for up to two awards with a total of $40 million in DOE cost share per award.

The lead-cooled fast reactor concept features a fast neutron spectrum, high-temperature operation, and cooling by molten lead or lead-bismuth eutectic, low-pressure, chemically inert liquids with very good thermodynamic properties.

Two of Russia’s foremost new reactor plans are for the 300 MWe BREST fast reactor, also lead-cooled, and the 100 MWe SVBR, cooled by lead-bismuth eutectic. Demonstration units of both are almost ready to start construction. In Europe, the 120 MWe ALFRED is being developed, and a consortium was set up in 2013 for its construction which may be from 2017.