CivilCommercialReactors

DOE Gives Kairos a Milestone-Marked Path to $303M

Image: Kairos

The ball is officially rolling on Kairos Power’s reactor deployment contract with the federal government.

In an announcement last week, the DOE confirmed it would implement an award originally granted in 2020 to build and commission a Hermes reactor in Oak Ridge, TN. The fixed-price, $303M award will be doled out in batches as the company hits key milestones on the project.

  • Kairos has hit several of the milestones on the award already, including securing a construction permit from the NRC and completing pumped salt operations with a test unit.
  • No word yet on whether additional payments have been made.

OK, prove it: The DOE is encouraging the development of advanced reactors through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). Kairos is one of many companies that have received awards to demonstrate that their advanced reactor design A) works and B) can be built at an affordable price.

  • For the uninitiated, an advanced reactor is any nuclear reactor that uses a material besides water to keep cool.
  • Kairos’ Hermes design uses molten salt as a coolant, which remains stable under high temps and keeps the reactor operating at low pressures.

Kairos’ award falls under the DOE’s Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration program. The DOE hopes these awardees can produce safe reactors to be licensed within 10–14 years of the original award (and if you’re keeping count, about four years have passed since then).

The affordability piece of the puzzle matters here. The choice to award a fixed-price contract keeps Kairos footing the bill for overruns rather than allowing charges to the DOE. And under the original public-private split, Kairos is responsible for contributing $326M of its own investment to the project.

Progress at Kairos: The Alameda, CA-based company has been executing plans to build a Hermes molten salt reactor by 2026. The NRC issued Kairos a construction permit in December 2023—the first non-water-cooled reactor design to win the honor in 50+ years. The company has not yet secured an operating license for the plant.

Note: A previous version of this story misstated the funding Kairos has already received through ARDP. This error has been corrected.

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