Oklo unveils its vision of Aurora plant

03 December 2019

California-based Oklo Inc has announced the launch of its Aurora energy plant which is powered by a small reactor with integrated solar panels. The company is preparing to submit its first licence application for the plant.

Oklo has for the first time issued renderings of the Aurora powerhouse (Image: Oklo)

Oklo describes Aurora as an "advanced fission clean energy plant design developed to power communities with affordable, reliable, clean power." The Aurora "powerhouse" includes a "fission battery" which uses metallic fuel. It can produce about 1.5 MW of electrical power and can also produce usable heat, the company says.

"The Aurora is built on years of technology research, development, and demonstration done at the US national labs and universities, and work done by Oklo to make the Aurora possible," Oklo CEO Jacob DeWitte said. "While heat and electrons are the product, the Aurora powerhouse is the main point for community interaction. We spent years thinking about how it could look, how it would function, and how it would become a point of pride in a community."

The company claims Aurora offers "many unique and beneficial attributes" including the ability to produce power for decades without needing to refuel, its small size, the placement of the fuel underground, the ability to operate without needing cooling water, the demonstrated natural shutdown behaviour of the fuel, and the use of a fission spectrum which can recycle fuel and ultimately convert nuclear waste to clean energy.

The Aurora powerhouse's sloped roof serves as the support for solar photovoltaic panels, which "also serve as a canvas for local art which will be developed in tandem with the communities that choose the Aurora as part of their low-carbon microgrid," the company says. "Oklo has been intentional to include solar panels as part of the Aurora powerhouse to illustrate how advanced fission and renewables can work together in a high reliability, clean microgrid."

Oklo has been engaged in pre-application activities with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2016 for the Aurora design, and says it is preparing to submit its first licence application. The company has previously received federal cost-shared funding for technology development through the US Department of Energy's cost-shared Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News