Kairos Power is building toward low-power demo operations in 2026

July 16, 2021, 9:00AMNuclear News
Artistic rendering of the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor. (Image: Kairos Power)

Today, Tennessee governor Bill Lee joined Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner Bob Rolfe and Kairos Power officials in Nashville, Tenn., to celebrate Kairos’s plans to construct a low-power demonstration reactor in the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company first announced its plans to redevelop the former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site at the Heritage Center, a former Department of Energy site complex, in December 2020.

Kairos is investing $100 million in the project and was awarded $303 million in risk reduction funding from the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which is also supporting full-scale demonstrations of TerraPower’s Natrium reactor in Wyoming and X-energy’s Xe-100 in Washington.

Meet Hermes: Called Hermes, the demonstration reactor is a scaled-down version of Kairos’s Fluoride Salt–Cooled High Temperature Reactor (KP-FHR) that is intended to demonstrate complete nuclear systems, advance Kairos’s manufacturing capabilities for critical components, test the supply chain, and facilitate licensing certainty for the KP-FHR. Kairos expects Hermes to be operational in 2026 and to lead to the development of a commercial-scale KP-FHR reactor, which the company is calling KP-X.

“We are thrilled to join the Oak Ridge community and to build on the rich technological heritage of the East Tennessee Technology Park,” said Kairos chief executive officer and cofounder Mike Laufer. “The opportunity to demonstrate Kairos Power’s advanced nuclear technology in Tennessee is a major milestone on the path to a clean and affordable energy system in the United States. We are grateful for the support from our partners at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority, City of Oak Ridge, the East Tennessee Economic Council, Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and we look forward to continued growth and engagement in Tennessee.”

In May, Kairos announced that the Tennessee Valley Authority would collaborate on deploying Hermes by providing engineering, operations, and licensing support to Kairos.

Design essentials: Kairos wants to commercialize a fluoride salt–cooled high-temperature reactor 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 while on line, 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 expensive high-pressure containment structures.

Local support: Oak Ridge is ready to welcome Kairos, an Alameda, Calif.–based company, to Tennessee. The project is expected to create 55 jobs in the area.

“Oak Ridge continues to lead the nation in groundbreaking technology, and we recognize Kairos Power for joining this effort,” said Lee. “I’m proud of the energy development happening in Tennessee that will positively impact the U.S. and the world. We thank Kairos Power for choosing to develop their test reactor here in Tennessee to support their mission of developing innovative nuclear technology that will move the U.S. forward.”

“The Oak Ridge Corridor is at the forefront of science and technology in the U.S., and this partnership with Kairos Power is a huge accomplishment for Tennessee and the nuclear energy world,” said Rolfe. “The combination of resources working to deliver innovative nuclear energy is fueled by our strong science and energy sector and the excellent work being done daily at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, led by Dr. [Thomas] Zacharia.”

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