Last week, Areva and Lightbridge signed a binding agreement to form a joint venture to commercialize Lightbridge’s new metallic fuel technology, which promises to make both new and existing reactors safer and more profitable. As noted in the press release, this is not Lightbridge’s only industry alliance—the company is also working with four established U.S. nuclear utilities to get feedback on its innovative fuel technology.
The Lightbridge-Areva agreement comes on the heels of some other significant announcements. At the end of last month, GE Hitachi and Advanced Reactor Concepts signed an agreement to jointly commercialize a sodium-cooled fast reactor based off of successful designs tested by Argonne National Laboratory. And also just last week, helium-cooled pebble bed reactor designer X-energy announced a memorandum of understanding with Centrus to explore collaboration toward production of fuel for advanced nuclear reactors, including the development of a fuel fabrication facility for X-energy’s “TRISO” pebble fuel. And these are only what has been announced recently.
Arrangements such as these raise complex legal questions, some of which are typical of all partnerships between large and small companies, and many which are unique to the nuclear industry. However, the potential benefits such alliances bring, by pairing new ideas with the know-how to get them through the development and licensing process, can be well worth it. Our team routinely assists companies navigating these sorts of arrangements. Please contact the authors if you have further questions.