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Investment contract supports US demonstration reactor project

22 February 2024

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and Kairos Energy have signed a technology investment agreement to implement an Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) risk reduction award to support the design, construction, and commissioning of the Hermes demonstration reactor.

A rendering of the Hermes demonstration reactor plant (Image: Kairos Power)

The agreement will see the DOE provide up to USD303 million using a performance-based, fixed-price milestone approach, with the company receiving fixed payments on demonstrating the achievement of significant project milestones.

Kairos Power co-founder and CEO Mike Laufer applauded the DOE for pursuing the use of this “novel” approach to public-private partnerships, which he said “allows us to remain focused on achieving the most important goals of the project while retaining agility and flexibility to move quickly as we learn key lessons through our iterative development approach”, he said.

“This agreement incentivises efficiency, drives performance, and establishes credibility to deliver,” Laufer added.

Hermes, a 35 MW (thermal) non-power version of the company’s fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor, the KP-HFR, is to be built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and is the first non-water cooled reactor to be approved for construction in the USA in more than 50 years. It is a critical step on Kairos’ iterative pathway to commercialising its technology: the company has also submitted a construction permit application for Hermes 2, a proposed two-unit, electricity-producing demonstration plant that would build on the learnings from Hermes and would demonstrate the complete architecture of future commercial plants.

The KP-HFR is one of five teams selected in 2020 by the DOE to receive USD30 million in initial funding for risk reduction projects under the ARDP. Since then, Kairos said, it has made “steady progress” towards demonstration, establishing extensive testing and manufacturing infrastructure to deliver the Engineering Test Unit series and advancing its fuel and molten salt coolant workstreams.

US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said the Hermes reactor is an important step toward realising advanced nuclear energy’s role in the nation’s clean energy transition. “Partnerships like this one play a significant role in making advanced nuclear technology commercially competitive,” she added.

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