Lead Cooled Fast Reactor
The Lead cooled fast reactor (LFR) system features a lead or lead/bismuth eutectic liquid-metal to cool the reactor and maintain neutrons in the highly energetic fast spectrum, enabling the production of fuel inside the reactor.
The natural heat flow of this liquid metal effectively cools the core while producing high outlet temperatures of between 550 in 800° C, where it is particularly well adapted for the production of hydrogen.
The reactor is designed to work on a closed fuel cycle, where all the waste is reused in the fuel, as the fast neutrons are able to convert all elements into useful fuel or inert products. In addition to the enhanced safety benefits that result from using molten lead as a relatively inert coolant, the LFR is also highly rated in sustainability (because of its closed fuel cycle) and proliferation resistance (because it employs a long-life core).
LFRs use metal or nitride-based fuel, containing fertile uranium and transuranics. Given its R&D needs in the areas of fuels, materials, and corrosion control, a two step process leading to industrial deployment of the LFR system has been proposed: by 2025 for reactors operating with relatively low temperature and power density, and by 2035 for more advanced higher-temperature designs.
The LFR is specifically designed for electricity and hydrogen production, and a technology pilot plant is planned for operation by 2020.
The main advantages of the LFR system are its expected fuel efficiency, its capabilities in terms of nuclear materials management (thereby mitigating proliferation risks) and the reduced production of high-level radioactive waste and actinides. Its high temperature makes it extremely useful for chemical processes, particularly the production of hydrogen.