NSE - Nuclear Science & Engineering at MIT


Lead-cooled reactors

The potential of medium-power lead alloy cooled fast reactors to perform two missions was investigated: (1) production of low-cost electricity and (2) burning of actinides from light water reactor (LWR) spent fuel. Lead does not undergo exothermic reactions with air or water environments, which is an advantage over sodium. The goal of achieving a high power level to enhance economic performance simultaneously with adoption of passive decay heat removal and modularity resulted in designs in the range of 600–800 MWth.Among the innovative ideas investigated are: (1) Use of direct contact evaporation of steam above the core region to eliminate the cost of steam generators, (2) Use of a supercritical CO2 power cycle as a more compact power cycle, (3) Use of centrally voided (streaming) fuel assemblies that can provide negative void coefficient of reactivity and (4) Use of Si infused ferrtic/martensitic steel functionally graded composites in contact with the lead coolant to allow operation at temperatures above 700°C without dissolution in lead.


  1. P. Hejzlar, N. E. Todreas, E. Shwageraus, A. Nikiforova, R. Petroski, M. J. Driscoll, “Cross-Comparison of Fast Reactor Concepts with Various Coolants,” Nuclear Engineering and Design, Special Issue on Flexible Conversion Fast Reactors, Vol. 239, No. 12, pp.2672–2691, Dec. 2009.
  2. Todreas, N.E., P.E. MacDonald, P. Hejzlar, J. Buongiorno, and E.P. Loewen. “Medium Power Lead Alloy Reactors — Missions for this Reactor Technology”,Nuclear Technology, Special Issue, Vol. 147, Number 3, Pg. 305–320, September 2004.
  3. Hejzlar, P., J. Buongiorno, P. MacDonald, and N.E. Todreas “Strategy for Actinide Burning in Medium Power Lead-Alloy Cooled Concepts,” Nuclear Technology, Special Issue, Vol. 147, Number 3, Pg. 321–343, September 2004.
  4. Short, M., Ballinger, R., Hänninen, H., “Corrosion Resistance of Alloys F91 and Fe-12Cr-Si in Lead-Bismuth Eutectic up to 715°C.”, J. Nuclear. Materials  Vol. 434(1–3):259 (2012).
  5. M. P. Short, R. G. Ballinger. “A Functionally Graded Composite for Service in High-Temperature Lead- and Lead-Bismuth-Cooled Nuclear Reactors, 1-: Design”, Nuclear Technology, Vol. 177(3):366–381 (2012).

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