Kairos to produce TRISO fuel for demo reactor

December 12, 2022, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Kairos Power has signed an agreement to produce TRISO fuel pebbles for the Hermes demonstration reactor at Los Alamos National Laboratory's Low Enriched Fuel Fabrication Facility (LEFFF) in New Mexico. Hermes is being deployed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The agreement was announced last week.

The partnership builds on Kairos’s long-term collaboration with LANL, combining Kairos’s work on pebble and TRISO manufacturing with the lab’s facilities and capabilities to realize the first iteration in its nuclear fuel development.

By expanding its work with LANL, Kairos is redoubling its commitment to public-private partnerships to advance its fuel program, which also benefits from collaboration with the Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Idaho National Laboratory. These relationships will be critical to achieving Kairos’s clean energy mission by de-risking the supply chain to deliver cost certainty for fluoride salt–cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology.

The technology: The 35-MWt nonpower Hermes demonstration reactor, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is scheduled to be operational in 2026. It is a scaled-down version of Kairos’s KP-FHR; the company intends this demonstration to lead to its commercial-scale KP-X by 2030. Kairos is attempting to expedite the development of the KP-X through a series of testing iterations and early engagement with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Unlike molten salt reactors that use liquid fuel dissolved in the coolant, Kairos would use TRISO fuel fabricated into pebbles, each one about the size of a golf ball.

As an advanced reactor designer, Kairos aims to commercialize its technology at a price competitive with natural gas generation. Hermes is part of the company’s strategy to achieve cost, construction, licensing, and supply chain certainty. It hopes the reactor will “prove our ability to deliver affordable nuclear heat,” said Mike Laufer, Kairos’s cofounder and chief executive officer.

Kim Scott, acting associate laboratory direct for physical sciences at LANL, said, “Not only does LEFFF build upon our longstanding nuclear fuel research, but Kairos Power utilizing LEFFF to produce Hermes fuel is consistent with our energy security mission.”

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