Nuclear Power Startup Newcleo Raises $315 Million for UK, France Expansion

Jun 20, 2022 by Bloomberg

Nuclear power startup Newcleo raised 300 million euros ($315 million) to help the company develop its technology toward its first pilot projects in France and the UK. 

The London-based company aims to bring down the development and production costs of nuclear power so it can play a bigger role in the transition away from fossil fuels. While the technology is still in early stages, it could benefit UK and French aspirations to scale new kinds of nuclear technologies as part of wider efforts to build reliable, zero-carbon power sources.

Newcleo uses what’s known as a lead-cooled fast reactor, a next-generation technology that operates at atmospheric pressure, making it safer than commonly used high-pressure water reactors. The lead-cooled systems also can run on waste produced by conventional plants, meaning they don’t require mined uranium. 

The fund raise follows the company’s launch last year with a 100 million-euro injection. Investors include the Agnelli family’s holding company Exor NV, Italian asset managers Azimut Holding SpA, as well as a number of wealthy Italian business people such as ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Claudio Costamagna.

Nucleo is aiming to build a 30-megawatt prototype — tiny by the standards of nuclear plants that are often more than 20 times that size. But the prototype would only cost about 400 million euros to build. 

“We are going to use these reactors as a test for these technologies,” said Stefano Buono, Nucleo’s chief executive officer. “We believe our reactor is cheaper than current reactors.”

If successful, the prototype could be scaled up for the next phase to a 200-megawatt commercial unit. Because the technology is much smaller than conventional plants, they would require less material and expense. The larger plant would have a cost under 1 billion euros, Buono said.

In the UK and France, Newcleo is seeking government approval of building sites and operating permts. It also plans to make fuel known as mixed plutonium-uranium oxides from processed nuclear waste. The company contracted with France’s Orano SA to conduct a feasibility study on the fuel production.

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By Will Mathis

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