FEIS for Hermes construction permit recommends approval

August 22, 2023, 9:32AMNuclear News
Conceptual art of the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor. (Image: Kairos Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has completed its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for Kairos Power’s application to build the Hermes demonstration reactor in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and is advising that the construction permit (CP) be issued.

“After weighing the environmental, economic, technical, and other benefits against environmental and other costs, and considering reasonable alternatives, the NRC staff recommends, unless safety issues mandate otherwise, that the NRC issue the CP to Kairos,” the FEIS states.

Staff will provide both the FEIS and its earlier safety evaluation report, completed in June, to the commission for a mandatory hearing, according to an August 17 agency announcement. Following the hearing, expected to be held later this year, the commissioners will vote on whether to issue the permit.

Kairos comments: “We are grateful to the NRC staff for their thorough review and comprehensive engagement with us and with local stakeholders,” said Kairos site licensing manager Marty Bryan. The company’s senior licensing director, Darrell Gardner, added, “The FEIS follows extensive engagement between Kairos Power and the NRC beginning in 2018. It builds upon selecting and characterizing an appropriate site for Hermes, engaging with the local community, and continuously communicating with stakeholders. We applaud the staff’s steady progress toward closing out the Hermes CPA [construction permit application] review and look forward to completing the mandatory hearing later this year.”

Background: Alameda, Calif.–based Kairos submitted the CPA in two parts in September and October 2021. Hermes is a 35-MWt fluoride salt–cooled, high-temperature reactor intended to demonstrate complete nuclear systems, advance Kairos’s manufacturing capabilities for critical components, test the supply chain, and facilitate licensing certainty for the technology. The company expects Hermes to be operational in 2026 and to lead to the development of its commercial-scale version, a 140-MWe reactor dubbed the KP-X.

In December 2020, Kairos received a Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program award for risk-reduction funding to support the development, construction, and commissioning of Hermes in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Materion Corporation, and the Electric Power Research Institute. The total award value is $629 million over seven years, with the DOE contributing $303 million.

Kairos has also established a cooperative development agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide defined engineering, operations, and licensing services for Hermes.

In case you missed it: On July 14, Kairos filed a CPA with the NRC for a two-unit version of Hermes. The company plans to build the two-reactor plant—dubbed Hermes 2—next to Hermes in Oak Ridge.

According to the NRC, its staff is reviewing the application to determine its acceptability for processing. Should it prove satisfactory, staff will docket the application and begin a detailed technical review. Following that, the NRC will publish a notice of opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing on the application before the agency’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

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