CNL and Kairos Power reach agreement on tritium research

September 9, 2020, 1:00PMNuclear News

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) on September 3 announced a research collaboration agreement with Kairos Power. Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the agreement includes research and engineering for technologies to separate, analyze, and store the tritium that would be created during the operation of Kairos Power’s proposed fluoride-salt–cooled small modular reactor.

Cost-sharing accelerates: CNL created the CNRI to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by giving developers access to the facilities and expertise at Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. The lab has stated a goal of siting an SMR by 2026.

“CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories is home to some of the world’s leading experts and unique lab facilities related to both hydrogen and tritium production, safety, and storage,” said Joe McBrearty, CNL’s president and chief executive officer. “Partnering with Kairos Power on this research is a very natural fit. With four projects now under way through our CNRI program, it’s clear that there is a need for this type of collaborative research and financing to advance SMR technologies here in Canada.”

In addition to Kairos Power, reactor developers selected for cost-sharing arrangements through the CNRI program in November 2019 were Moltex Canada, Terrestrial Energy, and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation. The next call for CNRI proposals is expected later this year.

Targeting tritium: Kairos Power’s SMR design, which it calls the Kairos Power FHR (KP-FHR), uses tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel and a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. Tritium will be produced as a by-product of reactor operations, requiring the company to incorporate and maintain engineering controls to ensure the protection of workers and the environment.

“The CNRI project with CNL is a significant step in defining Kairos Power’s strategy for managing tritium release, which is an important input to our overall source term and licensing basis to exploit the full benefits as we commercialize our KP-FHR technology,” said Micah Hackett, director of fuels and materials at Kairos Power.

CNL will work with Kairos to identify engineering designs for tritium recovery from various locations within the reactor system and will also identify experimental instrumentation and testing methods to measure tritium in various chemical forms, including nitrate salts.

“Given our decades of experience working on research related to CANDU reactors, tritium is really an area of strength for CNL,” said Jeffrey Griffin, CNL’s vice president of science and technology. “I am confident that we can bring a lot of value to this project and help Kairos with the necessary engineering design and controls.”

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