Leading with Lead: Blykalla's Bold Blueprint for Tomorrow's Energy

By: Collaborative Team

Nuclear energy, a cornerstone for our net-zero transition, is once again stepping into the limelight, with small modular reactors (SMRs) leading the charge. The world is witnessing an electrification surge. Global electricity generation is predicted to soar by 65% over the next 30 years. Just in Sweden, the projected electricity consumption surpasses expected production, indicating a potential shortfall of over 200 TWh by 2050. This underscores the urgent need to ramp up our electricity capacity investment.

Blykalla has risen to this challenge with an innovative technological breakthrough: using lead as a coolant liquid. The company’s concept is based on 25 years of research to develop a next-generation SMR concept using liquid lead as a coolant. That allows Blykalla to achieve both a very compact design with a lower LCOE (levelized cost of energy), as well as producing high-temperature steam that can be used for electrolysis, pyrolysis and other process heat applications.

The benefits of lead are manifold. For one, it allows the realization of passive safety in a remarkably compact form. Imagine reactors standing at just 5 meters high, in stark contrast to the typical 20-meter high water-cooled SMRs. This not only makes them incredibly space-efficient but also ideally suited for serial factory production. Furthermore, Blykalla’s patented use of aluminum alloyed steel overcomes the historical challenge with liquid lead, which tended to corrode and erode stainless steel structures. This alloy showcases perfect corrosion resistance, ensuring protection for the SMR’s critical components.

Enter SEALER (Swedish Advanced Lead Reactor) – Blykalla’s flagship lead-cooled reactor. It’s a marvel of engineering, compact yet robust, and designed for efficient commercial power production. One of its standout features is that its fuel never needs replacement during operation, dramatically slashing fuel management costs. With the pioneering use of alumina forming alloys, SEALER ensures the integrity of steel surfaces when exposed to liquid lead.

Safety is paramount in Blykalla’s design philosophy. The reactor’s passive safety mechanisms ensure decay heat removal via natural lead coolant convection. Should there be any disruptions, a series of fail-safes, including dip-coolers and a radiation-transport mechanism, guarantee temperature regulation. Most impressively, in the unlikely scenario of a core disruptive accident, volatile fission products remain contained within the lead coolant, ensuring no evacuation necessity for nearby residents.

Blykalla was co-founded as a spin-out of ground breaking research at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm by Janne Wallenius, widely recognized as one of the world’s leading reactor physicists, with 96 publications in peer reviewed journals, and Peter Szakalos, an expert in surface and corrosion science, currently leading the High Temperature Corrosion group at KTH. Led now by CEO, Jacob Stedmans, Blykalla’s vision is to single handedly lower the world’s CO2 emissions with 500 Mt annually by replacing fossil power plants – 1% of total emissions globally!

As the global energy landscape evolves, Blykalla’s lead-cooled SMRs are poised to play a significant role. Their compact design, combined with groundbreaking technological advancements, positions them at the forefront of our net-zero transition. Watch Jacob share the story on stage at the Norrsken Impact Week.