Kairos Power test reactor comes to repurposed Oak Ridge site

December 11, 2020, 2:41PMNuclear News

An aerial view of the ETTP site. Photo: Heritage Center, LLC

Kairos Power plans to site a test reactor it has dubbed Hermes at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company has executed a Memorandum of Understanding with Heritage Center, LLC, to acquire the former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site at ETTP, subject to ongoing due diligence evaluations. The announcement was made today, during the 2020 East Tennessee Economic Council Annual Meeting and Awards Celebration.

“We are thrilled at the prospect of coming to East Tennessee,” said Michael Laufer, cofounder and chief executive officer of Kairos Power. “The infrastructure available at ETTP, combined with its proximity to key collaborators at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, makes this a great location to demonstrate our technology. The successful commissioning of Hermes builds on our current technology development programs and extensive engagement with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ultimately, Hermes will prove that Kairos Power can deliver real systems at our cost targets to make advanced nuclear a competitive source of clean energy in the United States.”

Lou Martinez, vice president of strategy and innovation, added, “Today is an important day for Kairos Power. We are celebrating our 4th anniversary by showcasing an important milestone.”

Design basics: Kairos Power wants to commercialize a fluoride-salt–cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) at a price competitive with natural gas generation. The reactor would feature TRISO fuel in pebble form and low-pressure liquid fluoride salt as a coolant. According to the company, the choice of a pebble-type fuel would allow the reactor to refuel on-line for exceptional availability, while molten fluoride salts are well suited to high-temperature heat transfer and can retain radioactive fission products that might be released from fuel. The intrinsic low pressure of a molten salt reactor enhances safety and eliminates the need for large and expensive high-pressure containment structures.

Kairos Power plans to reduce technical risk and costs through an iterative approach to testing to meet the goal of a constructing a demonstration plant before 2030, followed by a rapid deployment. The company expects its test program to also provide validation and qualification data to support the licensing basis for the KP-FHR.

Local support: Oak Ridge is ready to welcome Kairos Power, an Alameda, Calif.–based company, to Tennessee. “The Oak Ridge Corridor will be a great location for Kairos Power,” said ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia. “The national lab has a number of efforts under way to advance nuclear technologies, including world-class capabilities in molten salt reactors. We have worked with Kairos Power in the past and are pleased that they selected the ETTP site for this project.”

Oak Ridge's mayor, Warren Gooch, noted that the city has a long and distinguished history of nuclear innovation. "The citizens of Oak Ridge look forward to welcoming Kairos Power to our community," he said. "As Oak Ridge continues its transformation into modern nuclear technology, Kairos will be an important part of demonstrating a center of innovation.”

Jim Campbell, president of the East Tennessee Economic Council, stated, “We are delighted that Kairos Power is planning to pursue a new nuclear facility at ETTP. It’s very gratifying, not only to see the former Oak Ridge resources repurposed, but to see the continuation of nuclear innovation that East Tennessee is famous for.”


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