Swedish small reactor developer LeadCold, which has a subsidiary in Canada, said Thursday that it had secured $200 million (US) in funding from Essel Group ME that will enable the company to construct the world's first privately funded lead-cooled nuclear power plant.
Essel Group ME is a division of Essel Group of India. According to the World Nuclear Association, the company pledged $18 million last year to advance LeadCold's licensing efforts in Canada, where LeadCold has a subsidiary registered in Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, an island territory in northern Canada that includes most of the country's Arctic archipelago.
However, LeadCold now says that it signed a deal on 20 January for $200 million in funding “to complete a pre-licensing design review of the SEALER reactor with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission,” Canada's regulatory agency. While this is a pre-licensing step that precludes the formal review for licensing, the company says it can have a prototype unit built and running sometime in 2021.
A presence in a country with locations in the far north are logical for the company. The SEALER design is being marketed as technology that would be useful in Arctic regions where diesel generators are the “only choice” for electricity, LeadCold said. “Using advanced technology, small nuclear reactors may provide clean and safe base-load energy in locations where today diesel is the only choice, such as in Arctic regions, remote islands, off-grid communities, mining and shipping industry,” said the company, noting that diesel generators are responsible for 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The SEALER design is capable of producing 3-10 MW of electricity for up to 30 years without refueling. It is expected the reactors would be used until the fuel is spent, at which point the reactor, which is expected to cost about $76 million, would be replaced. The spent reactor would then be moved to a centralized recycling center.
The use of lead coolant eliminates the need for emergency cooling and reduces the risk for release of radioactive elements, the company said. It makes use of company-developed aluminum alloy steel compounds that are “highly corrosion resistant in contact with liquid lead,” a major obstacle that has held back lead-cooled reactor development for commercial use since it was first introduced.
With $200 million at its disposal, LeadCold said it can complete the pre-licensing review with CNSC, complete the detailed engineering design of the reactor, carry out the research and development needed for obtaining a license to build and install a unit in Canada and construct a full-scale 3 MWe SEALER prototype.
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