Westinghouse proposes LFR project

14 October 2015

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 Competition for Concept Development funding opportunity.

Westinghouse said that its project team includes members of the national laboratory system, universities and the private sector "with expertise in areas essential to the design and commercialization of an advanced LFR plant".

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".

Westinghouse president and CEO Danny Roderick said, "Westinghouse's vision is to be the first to innovate the next technology, and we believe an LFR plant will be the next advanced reactor technology to be deployed. Westinghouse and our partners have the experience and technical capability to bring it to market."

The DOE's funding opportunity, announced at the end of July, aims to support the research, development and demonstration of "nuclear advanced reactor technologies, which have the potential to provide substantially enhanced operational performance, safety, security, economics, and proliferation resistance". 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. Lead-cooled fast reactors are one of six technology streams being pursued under the Generation IV International Forum. Until now, US LFR concepts have been limited to STAR, designed by DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, but not proceeding.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News