Input Sought for Test Reactor Environmental Review

Source: | February 21, 2022

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff will seek public views on environmental issues the agency should consider in reviewing Kairos Power’s application for a construction permit to build the “Hermes” test reactor at a site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.NRC staff will consider written comments regarding environmental topics until April 19.

The staff will hold a meeting on March 23, to discuss the safety and environmental review processes and take comments. Meeting details will be available by March 11 on the NRC’s public meeting calendar or the agency webpage on the Kairos application.

Kairos submitted the application’s environmental report on Oct. 31 last year. The company plans to build a 35-megawatt, non-power reactor, which uses molten salt to cool the reactor core.The test reactor would provide operational data to support the development of a larger version meant for a commercial nuclear power plant. The company will have to submit a separate application for an operating license in the future.

Alameda, California-based Kairos Power plans to invest $100 million and create 55 jobs to deploy its demonstration reactor, called Hermes. The Hermes reactor is a scaled version of the company’s fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) design.

The KP-FHR is said to be “a novel advanced reactor technology that leverages TRISO (TRi-structural ISOtropic particle) fuel in pebble form combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant.” The technology uses an efficient and flexible steam cycle to convert heat from fission into electricity, the company said.

Rather than water, as used in conventional nuclear reactors, the Kairos Power reactor uses molten fluoride salt as a coolant. Molten fluoride salts are said to have excellent chemical stability, and great capacity for transferring heat at high temperature and retaining fission products. Various U.S. reactor studies have confirmed the compatibility of molten fluoride salts with conventional high-temperature structural materials (such as stainless steel), thus enabling commercially attractive reliability and service life, according to Kairos Power.