Kairos Power, DOE agree on milestone approach to Hermes support

The DOE’s share of Risk Reduction funding announced in 2020 totaled about $623 million, with Kairos Power receiving nearly half of the ARDP Risk Reduction funding awarded to five companies.

“The Hermes reactor is an important step toward realizing advanced nuclear energy’s role in ushering forward the nation’s clean energy transition,” said Kathryn Huff, the DOE’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy. “Partnerships like this one play a significant role in making advanced nuclear technology commercially competitive.”

Measured by milestones: Milestone-based contracting has been used by the Department of Defense and in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to support the development and demonstration of complex technologies through federal partnerships with commercial companies.

“With the use of fixed-price milestone payments, this innovative contract provides real benefits to both Kairos Power and DOE to ensure the successful completion of the Hermes reactor. It 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,” said Mike Laufer, Kairos Power cofounder and chief executive officer.

“Kairos Power applauds DOE for pursuing this novel approach to public-private partnerships,” Laufer added. “This agreement incentivizes efficiency, drives performance, and establishes credibility to deliver.”

Progress so far: ARDP awards require recipients to pick up their share of project costs, and Kairos Power’s share of Risk Reduction funding was $326 million, according to the December 2020 program announcement. Since then, Kairos Power has signed an agreement to produce TRISO fuel pebbles for Hermes at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Low Enriched Fuel Fabrication Facility and has commissioned a fluoride salt purification plant in Elmore, Ohio, with partner Materion.

In December 2023, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a construction permit to Kairos Power for the Hermes demonstration reactor—the first non-water-cooled reactor to be approved in the United States in more than 50 years. Both Hermes and Hermes 2, which is set to follow, are part of Kairos Power’s “iterative pathway” to commercializing a 140-MWe fluoride salt–cooled, high-temperature reactor called KP-FHR.