Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR): The Next Generation of Nuclear Technology

Westinghouse is currently developing a Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR) concept – a next-generation nuclear plant designed to compete even in the most challenging global energy markets.

The Westinghouse Lead Fast Reactor (LFR) is a medium-sized, passively safe modular reactor being developed to reduce front-end capital cost and generate flexible and cost-competitive electricity. The LFR achieves new levels of energy affordability by adopting innovative design features to simplify and compact the plant, while enhanced construction modularity shortens the construction schedule. Use of lead as coolant, with a boiling point exceeding 1700°C, allows for high temperature operation at atmospheric pressure without coolant boiling concerns. This increases thermodynamic efficiency, reduces capital cost and facilitates achieving inherent safety compared to pressurized systems.

Because lead coolant operates at atmospheric pressure and does not exothermically react with air or with power conversion fluids (such as supercritical carbon dioxide and water), LFR technology also eliminates the need and associated expense of extra components and redundant safety systems required by other plant designs for protection against coolant leakages. Further operational and safety enhancements are also achieved by utilizing fuel and cladding with high temperature capabilities based on some of those under development in Westinghouse’s EnCore® Fuel program.

The LFR has the ability to go beyond baseload electricity generation by utilizing a thermal energy storage system for load leveling. Its high-temperature capabilities make it capable of addressing a broad range of applications such as combined heat and electricity, as well as water desalination in captive markets. Additionally, operation in fast neutron spectrum facilitates improved uranium resource utilization and reduced nuclear waste generation, with the potential to close the nuclear fuel cycle.

Benefits of the Westinghouse LFR:

  • Enhanced economic competitiveness
    • Lower capital and construction costs
    • Higher thermodynamic efficiency
  • Flexible electricity generation to best complement renewable electricity sources
  • Improved sustainability and ease of siting relative to traditional light water reactors
    • Reduced nuclear waste generation
    • Utilization of an air-based ultimate cooling system, removing the need for proximity to large bodies of water

Learn more about the Westinghouse Lead-cooled Fast Reactor.