CNL announces SMR research partnership with Kairos Power

04 September 2020

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has announced a collaboration agreement with US-based Kairos Power, which is working to develop and license fluoride salt-cooled small modular reactor (SMR) technology. The agreement is funded through CNL's Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) programme and will cover research and engineering of technologies to separate, analyse and store tritium generated through the reactor's operation.

Chalk River Laboratories (Image: CNL)

The reactor, known as Kairos Power FHR (KP-FHR), uses tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) ceramic fuel combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. The heat generated through the nuclear reaction is then converted into electricity through a flexible steam cycle. Tritium - a radioactive isotope of hydrogen - will be produced as a by-product of reactor operations, and this means the company must incorporate and maintain engineering controls to ensure the protection of workers and the environment.

CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said partnering with Kairos Power on this research was a "natural fit" as CNL's Chalk River Laboratories is already home to some of the world's leading experts and unique laboratory facilities related to hydrogen and tritium production, safety and storage. "With four projects now under way through our CNRI program, it's clear that there is a need for this type of collaborative research and financing to advance SMR technologies here in Canada. Overall, we are very excited to work alongside Kairos to help expand their capabilities in tritium management, and we look forward to getting started," he said.

Kairos Power has conducted extensive testing and analysis related to tritium behaviour and management, and is now working to identify and assess options for a tritium recovery and storage system. Amongst other things, CNL said it will work with Kairos to identify the best engineering designs for tritium recovery from various locations within the reactor system. Researchers will also work to identify experimental instrumentation and testing methods to measure tritium in various chemical forms, including nitrate salts.

"Given our decades of experience working on research related to Candu reactors, tritium is really an area of strength for CNL. I am confident that we can bring a lot of value to this project and help Kairos with the necessary engineering design and controls," Jeffrey Griffin, CNL's vice president of science and technology, said. "That's really what the CNRI program is all about. As Canada's national nuclear laboratory, CNL has extensive resources to offer SMR vendors here in Canada and around the world, and we want to make them available to those who need it to make this much-needed clean energy technology a reality."

Kairos Power was in November selected alongside Moltex Canada, Terrestrial Energy Inc and UltraSafe Nuclear Corporation as one of the first recipients of funds under the CNRI, which was launched in July last year to provide reactor vendors access to CNL's research facilities.

SMRs have been identified by CNL as part of the organisation's Long-Term Strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR at Chalk River by 2026. In 2018 it issued an invitation in to SMR developers for the construction and operation of an SMR demonstration reactor at a CNL-managed site. At present, there are four proponents engaged in various states of the invitation process: Global First Power; StarCore Nuclear; Terrestrial Energy; and U-Battery Canada Ltd.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News