Power production in off-grid communities and mining sites often relies on diesel generators, which results in high costs plus detrimental effects on health and environment. This situation is especially problematic in arctic communities, where expenditures for electricity can amount to 10% of GDP. Moreover, although many arctic regions are rich in natural resources, utilising their commercial potential is hampered by excessive costs for power, which may constitute more than one third of the total cost for producing a finished commodity. An affordable, reliable and sustainable off-grid alternative to diesel generators would thus be most welcome. Small nuclear power plants can meet this need – as long as they fulfil the key condition that no conceivable accident should require evacuation of site workers or communities.
In collaboration with the Swedish steel industry, the founders of LeadCold have developed an aluminium-alloyed steel (Fe-10Cr-4Al-Zr) that is highly corrosion resistant during long-term exposure to molten lead. Based on this technological breakthrough, the company has designed a small reactor named SEALER (Swedish Advanced Lead Reactor).
SEALER uses conventional uranium oxide fuel to produce 3-10 MW of electric power without fuel reload. The lower level is adequate for supplying power to arctic communities and corresponds to a reactor life of 30 years. The higher level is suitable for mining applications and has a core-life of ten years. Importantly, the residual waste produced by both types requires less than 1000 years of storage, in strong contrast to the more than 100,000 years’ storage needed for the high-level waste produced by today’s nuclear reactors. Furthermore, no accident scenario can lead to a situation where evacuation becomes necessary.