NRC reviewing construction permit application for 35-MW Small Nuclear Demonstration Project

Dec. 2, 2021
The reactor would use molten salt to cool the reactor core and provide operational data to support eventual development of a larger version. The Idaho National Laboratory also is looking into the potential of small nuclear for net-zero microgrids

By Rod Walton, EnergyTech Senior Editor

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed it will review a permit application to build a low-power small nuclear reactor demonstration plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The NRC accepted Kairos Power’s construction permit application for the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor project. The 35-MW, non-power reactor would use molten salt to cool the reactor core and provide operational data to support eventual development of a larger version for a commercial nuclear power plant.

The Idaho National Laboratory also is looking into the potential for small nuclear reactors to provide power for zero-carbon microgrids in the future. In the Tennessee case, the Hermes demonstration reactor would be built at the East Tennesse Park Heritage Center site in Oak Ridge.

Kairos will be required to submit a separate application for a future operating license, but certainly viewed the NRC review as a positive move forward.

Related story: Is Micro-Nuclear an Option for Net-Zero Microgrids?

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“This licensing milestone represents a significant achievement, concluding a tremendous cross-functional effort by the Kairos Power team to complete the application just 18 months after the decision to build the Hermes reactor was made,” Mike Laufer, Kairos Power co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of our team’s commitment to achieving this goal in such a short time. This licensing effort, in combination with our ongoing technology development and manufacturing programs, will lay the groundwork to prove that we can deliver cost certainty for commercial demonstration and deployment.”

The construction permit application includes a preliminary safety analysis and environmental reports. The federal nuclear regulators now will start a detailed technical review of the permit application.

Kairos Power is the recipient of a Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) award for risk reduction funding to support development, construction, and commissioning of Hermes in collaboration with its partners: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Materion Corporation, and the Electric Power Research Institute.

This is a cost-shared partnership between the DOE and industry to demonstrate advanced nuclear technology in the U.S. The total award value over the next seven years is $629 million, with the DOE contributing $303 million.