Kairos Power, Los Alamos collaborate to make TRISO fuel

09 December 2022

TRISO fuel pebbles for the Hermes demonstration reactor will be produced at the New Mexico lab's Low Enriched Fuel Fabrication Facility (LEFFF) under a newly announced agreement. This is the first nuclear iteration in Kairos Power's "rapid iterative approach" to nuclear fuel development as well as the first nuclear fuel development campaign for LEFFF.

(Image: Kairos)

California-based Kairos Power is working to commercialise its fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology using a rapid iterative development approach. An application for a construction permit for the Hermes demonstration reactor - to be built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee - is currently undergoing formal review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Kairos said the "synergistic partnership" combines its fuel manufacturing expertise with Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) facilities and capabilities. It is facilitated by the lab's proximity to Kairos's testing and manufacturing facility in Albuquerque, where the company is working to develop manufacturing processes that will be implemented in the LEFFF.

Ed Blandford, Kairos Power's chief technology officer, said Kairos and LANL employees will work side-by-side at LEFFF to produce fuel pebbles for the reactor. "The partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory will be the catalyst for Kairos Power to build a credible path to manufacture fuel at industrial scale for KP-FHR technology starting with our Hermes demonstration reactor," he said.

Iterative prototyping and innovation from the company's Pebble Development Lab and its soon-to-be-commissioned TRISO Development Lab will be integral to the collaborative work, the company's senior director of fuels and materials, Micah Hackett, said. "With these early iterations, we are optimising our processes and learning valuable lessons that will carry forward into our nuclear fuel programme," he added.

Manufacturing fuel for Hermes in partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory will allow Kairos Power to better control product quality, schedule, and cost, and yield experience that will inform future iterations in its nuclear fuel development programme, the company said, and investing in LEFFF aligns its vertical integration strategy to build a robust and reliable supply chain.

LEFFF is a multi-disciplinary customer user facility designed to support multiple nuclear fuel development campaigns, and Kairos is its first partner. "The facility is a critical tool for the nation to mature fuel technology for the advancement of clean energy," LEFFF Team Leader Timothy Coons said. "LEFFF's mission is to provide the necessary utilities and authorisation basis for a multi-disciplinary set of customers to mature and accelerate their fuel needs. This first partnership between LEFFF and Kairos Power demonstrates the commitment of both organisations to accelerate advanced clean energy solutions."
TRISO - standing for TRIstructural-ISOtropic - fuel comprises spherical kernels of enriched uranium oxycarbide (or uranium dioxide) surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable up to very high temperatures. Hermes will use "pebbles" of fuel made from TRISO particles.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News