Westinghouse is currently developing a Lead-cooled Fast reactor (LFR) concept; a next-generation nuclear plant with significantly improved economics, higher efficiency, and capabilities beyond electricity generation.
The LFR achieves new levels of energy affordability by adopting innovative design features to simplify and compact the plant, and enhanced construction modularity to shorten the construction schedule. Use of lead as coolant, with a boiling point exceeding 1700°C, allows for high temperature operation at atmospheric pressure without boiling concerns, which benefits thermodynamic efficiency, reduces capital cost and facilitates achieving inherent safety compared to pressurized systems. Because lead coolant does not react with air and water and has limited activation under neutron irradiation, LFR technology eliminates the need and associated expense of extra components and redundant safety systems required by other technologies for protection against coolant leakages. Further operational and safety enhancements are also achieved by adoption of a fuel/cladding combination with high temperature capability based on those under development by Westinghouse in the Accident Tolerant Fuel program.
The LFR will address variability in electricity output to best complement the increasing use of renewable energy sources. Beyond electricity generation, the high-temperature capabilities of the LFR will allow for a broad range of applications such as thermal energy storage and water desalination, while operation in fast neutron spectrum facilitates improving uranium resources utilization and reducing nuclear waste generation, with the potential to close the nuclear fuel cycle.
Benefits of the LFR:
- Lower capital and construction costs, resulting in enhanced economic competitiveness of nuclear relative to other energy sources
- Higher thermodynamic efficiency than traditional light water reactors, which improves natural resources (uranium and water) utilization for unit of electricity produced
- Reduction in nuclear waste generation with potential to close the nuclear fuel cycle