In a notable development in the nuclear energy sector, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has greenlit the construction of Kairos Power’s Hermes demonstration reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This decision marks a significant leap for Kairos Power, moving it closer to commercializing its advanced reactor technology. Hermes, characterized by its non-water-cooled design, is the first of its kind to gain construction approval in the U.S. in over five decades.
Mike Laufer, Kairos Power co-founder and CEO, expressed enthusiasm for this regulatory milestone, stating, “Kairos Power is thrilled to have achieved this major regulatory milestone as we make final preparations to start construction at the Hermes site next year.” He emphasized the project’s alignment with the region’s nuclear legacy and its potential to contribute clean, safe, and affordable energy.
Peter Hastings, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs & Quality at Kairos Power, highlighted the success of their pre-application engagement with the NRC, which began back in 2018. This proactive approach facilitated an efficient review process, culminating in the recent approval. Hastings noted, “This historic achievement is a testament to the concerted effort by the entire Kairos Power team aligned with our iterative approach to licensing KP-FHR technology.”
The Hermes project represents more than just a new reactor. It’s a step forward in mitigating technology, licensing, supply chain, and construction risks, ensuring cost certainty for the company’s fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology. The lessons learned from Hermes will be pivotal for Kairos Power’s planned commercial deployments in the early 2030s.
Further, Kairos Power’s collaborative efforts with industry giants like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Materion Corporation, and the Electric Power Research Institute, backed by a Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) award, underscore the project’s broad support base.
The company is not stopping at Hermes. Plans for Hermes 2, a two-unit demonstration plant, are already under NRC review. This next phase aims to showcase the complete architecture of Kairos Power’s future commercial plants on a smaller scale, including grid electricity supply.
The nuclear industry has long been eyeing advancements like these. The last time the U.S. saw a non-water-cooled reactor construction was in the era of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in the late 1950s, a pioneering project in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Hermes project, thus, doesn’t just represent a single company’s achievement but is a beacon in the evolving landscape of nuclear energy, reflecting a shift towards more diverse and advanced reactor designs.