Advanced reactor licensing and the path to cost certainty

September 20, 2022, 3:13PMNuclear NewsMike Laufer

Laufer

Developing a first-­of-­a-­kind reactor is a daunting endeavor. To be successful, advanced reactor designers need to achieve cost certainty by delivering a safe and affordable product at the promised cost. To meet this goal, Kairos Power structured its approach around four key strategies: 1) achieving technology certainty through a rapid iterative approach; 2) achieving construction certainty by demonstrating the ability to build it; 3) achieving licensing certainty by proving Kairos can license it; and 4) achieving supply chain certainty by vertically integrating critical capabilities. By mitigating risk in these four key areas, Kairos Power is confident that it will get true cost certainty for our future products.

The third prong in Kairos’s strategy—achieving licensing certainty—was a key driver in the decision to build the Hermes low-­power demonstration reactor, and it remains a major workstream as the company’s construction permit application (CPA) undergoes review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Licensing a new nuclear technology is no small challenge, and there are multiple approaches companies can take. Here’s a look at how we at Kairos are approaching it.

Kairos Power and Materion commission fluoride salt purification plant

July 20, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
(Photo: Kairos Power)

Kairos Power needs a source of high-purity fluoride salt to test its molten salt reactor design and ultimately to serve as the coolant in its grid-scale fluoride salt–cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR). As part of a cooperative development agreement with Materion Corporation, Kairos Power designed a molten salt purification plant (MSPP) that has just been commissioned at Materion’s campus in Elmore, Ohio.

ANS Annual Meeting: Nuclear power innovation for decarbonization

June 15, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Panelists (from left) Adam Stein, Jon Ball, Mike Laufer, and Michl Binderbauer during the Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize session at the ANS Annual Meeting.

If nuclear innovators are in a race to decarbonize, it is a race with one finish line—affordable, clean, and reliable power—and many ways to get there. Over 40 fission developers and 20 fusion developers are in the running, and while attendees of the June 13 ANS Annual Meeting executive session on Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize heard from representatives of just three of those companies, they presented very different designs and deployment approaches, aptly reflecting the broader diversity of nuclear power innovation.

Session chair Adam Stein, director of nuclear energy innovation at the Breakthrough Institute, welcomed representatives from an advanced non–light water reactor developer (Mike Laufer, Kairos Power), a small modular light water reactor developer (Jon Ball, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy), and a fusion power developer (Michl Binderbauer, TAE Technologies). Together they explored the challenge of engineering a significant commercial scale-up of advanced nuclear technology by the end of the decade, tackling questions of cost, schedule, supply chain, regulation, and more.

Kairos Power forms advisory consortium with four nuclear utility partners

April 20, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Kairos Power announced today that it has assembled an advanced nuclear development advisory consortium with four North American nuclear operators—Bruce Power, Constellation, Southern Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority—dubbed Kairos Power Operations, Manufacturing and Development Alliance (Kairos Power-OMADA).

Advanced reactor company CEOs on NRC licensing

January 5, 2022, 7:12AMNuclear News
Still image from the session. From left to right are Judi Greenwald, Harlan Bowers, Simon Irish, Mike Laufer, and Jake DeWitte.

The 2021 ANS Winter Meeting included an executive session on advanced reactor licensing, featuring the leaders of four of the top advanced reactor companies: Mike Laufer, chief executive officer of Kairos Power; Jake DeWitte, CEO of Oklo; Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy; and Harlan Bowers, president of X-energy.

New sensing technologies can reduce O&M costs to ensure advanced reactors’ economic viability

December 23, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsAlexander Heifetz, Matthew Weathered, Nathan Hoyt, Mark Anderson, Scott Sanders, Anthonie Cilliers
Kairos Power’s Instrumentation Test Unit

As a source of carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy currently dominates in the United States. However, the light water reactors in the U.S. are approaching the end of their licensed service lives. Meanwhile, low-cost electricity generated by fossil fuel–based sources (such as natural gas) poses an ongoing challenge to the economic viability of commercial nuclear reactors. To enhance the competitiveness of the nuclear industry, we need to bring down the high operating and maintenance (O&M) costs through savings available from utilizing modern, efficient sensing and automation technologies.

NRC issues key safety report on Kairos reactor

November 22, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News
Artistic rendering of the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor, a scaled-down demo of the KP-FHR. (Image: Kairos Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued a draft safety evaluation report indicating initial acceptance of Kairos Power’s source term methodology for its fluoride salt–cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR).

Countdown to the ANS Winter Meeting

November 18, 2021, 6:52AMANS News

Excitement is building for the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo, which will be ANS’s first-ever completely hybrid event. The Winter Meeting will take place at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., from November 30 to December 3, which is later than normal because the original venue for the Winter Meeting closed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CNL issues call for third round of proposals under Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative

October 6, 2021, 7:29AMNuclear News

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) last week issued a call for proposals for the third round of its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) program.

More information about the program, including application details, can be found online.

Oak Ridge community meets a future neighbor: Hermes

September 29, 2021, 2:51PMNuclear News
Explore Kairos Power’s plans in a virtual open house.

By 2030, Kairos Power aims to demonstrate electricity production from a full-scale, 140-MWe fluoride salt–cooled high-temperature reactor, the KP-X. In service of that goal, Kairos plans to demonstrate Hermes, a scaled-down 35-MWth nonpower reactor, in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Hermes is being built to “prove our ability to deliver affordable nuclear heat,” said Mike Laufer, Kairos Power chief executive officer and cofounder, as he explained Kairos’s plans to the local community during a September 28 webinar now available to view on demand. Laufer took questions, and Kairos took the opportunity to introduce a virtual open house that visitors can tour to view videos and interactive features and even submit comments.

Kairos Power to hold virtual information session

September 24, 2021, 9:34AMANS Nuclear Cafe
An aerial view of the ETTP site. Photo: Heritage Center, LLC

Back in July, officials from the state of Tennessee and Kairos Power met in Nashville to celebrate Kairos’s plans to construct a low-power demonstration reactor in the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The demonstration facility is a scaled-down version of Kairos’s Fluoride Salt–Cooled High Temperature Reactor (KP-FHR), dubbed Hermes. The company first announced plans in December 2020 to redevelop the ETTP’s former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site for construction of Hermes.

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.

Group calls for NRC licensing fee reform to spur advanced nuclear

May 20, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) yesterday released a report, Unlocking Advanced Nuclear Innovation: The Role of Fee Reform and Public Investment, arguing that a reform of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s user-fee model for new license applicants, combined with more funding for advanced reactor licensing and regulatory infrastructure, will unlock innovation and support U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear energy.

The 38-page report asserts that as currently structured, the NRC’s fee model inhibits carbon-free advanced nuclear innovation in two primary ways: First, it limits the agency’s resources, flexibility, and efficiency; and second, the open-ended costs associated with paying fees impose barriers to new entrants.

TVA and Kairos partner on demonstration reactor

May 6, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of Kairos Power’s KP-FHR reactor. (Image: Kairos Power)

The Tennessee Valley Authority and nuclear technology and engineering company Kairos Power this morning announced plans to collaborate on the deployment of the latter’s low-power demonstration reactor, dubbed Hermes, at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. TVA will provide engineering, operations, and licensing support to help Kairos with deployment, according to the announcement.

Five advanced reactor designs get DOE risk reduction funding

December 16, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy today announced $30 million in initial fiscal year 2020 funding—with the expectation of more over the next seven years—for five companies selected for risk reduction for future demonstration projects. The chosen reactor designs from Kairos Power, Westinghouse, BWX Technologies, Holtec, and Southern Company collectively represent a range of coolants, fuel forms, and sizes—from tiny microreactors to a molten salt reactor topping 1,000 MWe. They were selected for cost-shared partnerships under the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) through a funding opportunity announcement issued in May 2020.

“All of these projects will put the U.S. on an accelerated timeline to domestically and globally deploy advanced nuclear reactors that will enhance safety and be affordable to construct and operate,” said Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. “Taking leadership in advanced technology is so important to the country’s future, because nuclear energy plays such a key role in our clean energy strategy.”

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.”

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.