The US company Kairos Power has developed a reactor whose cooling circuit is based on salt instead of water. It is the first model in over 50 years.
Nuclear power remains an explosive topic when it comes to the energy transition. Nuclear power plants produce huge amounts of energy with comparatively low emissions. Nevertheless, radioactive waste is generated, which can pose a real problem for future generations.
In the USA, the technology is still on everyone's lips. Many companies there are working on the next generation of nuclear reactors, including the start-up Kairos Power. This recently received approval for a new model with the project name “Hermes”. What's special: the reactor's cooling is not based on water.
Reactor uses salt for the cooling circuit
In previously common nuclear power plants, several water circuits ensure proper cooling of the entire system. However, Kairos Power sees significantly more potential in a cooling circuit made from fluoride salt. According to its own information, the start-up is offering the first non-water-cooled reactor in over 50 years.
With the salt-based approach, Kairos Power wants to offer an alternative that can compete in terms of price in the long term. By taking advances in conventional reactors into account, systems should be created that require little maintenance and are (almost) always available.
First reactors possible in 2030
With the approval it has now received, the start-up would like to build more prototypes and complete the final version by the end of 2026. Kairos Power is investing around 100 million US dollars. After production in a factory, the reactors could be brought directly to the customer and installed there. The first systems are scheduled to go into operation in 2030.
A follow-up project called “Hermes 2” could then start. The goal: A power plant based on two Kairos Power reactors and capable of generating up to 28 megawatts of electricity. Further structures with an output of 100 megawatts could be built later. For comparison: conventional power plants produce up to 1,000 megawatts of energy.