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September 16, 2020

CNL partners with Kairos Power on SMR research

Science Lab

Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative, new engineering project is designed to enhance tritium safety, storage and management

Chalk River, ON – September 03, 2020 – Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Kairos Power, a U.S.-based engineering company working to develop and licence its fluoride-salt cooled, small modular reactor (SMR) technology. Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the agreement includes the research and engineering of technologies to better separate, analyze and store tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, generated through the operation of Kairos Power’s proposed SMR design.

Launched in 2019, the CNRI program was established by CNL to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling research and development, and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. Among the many benefits of the program, participants are able to optimize resources, share technical knowledge, and gain access to CNL’s expertise to help advance the commercialization of SMR technologies.

“CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories is home to some of the world’s leading experts and unique lab facilities related to both hydrogen and tritium production, safety and storage; partnering with Kairos Power on this research is a very natural fit,” commented Joe McBrearty, CNL President and CEO. “With four projects now underway 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.”

“The CNRI project with CNL is a significant step in defining Kairos Power’s strategy for managing tritium release, which is an important input to our overall source term and licensing basis to exploit the full benefits as we commercialize our KP-FHR technology,” commented Dr. Micah Hackett, Director of Fuels and Materials at Kairos Power.

Known as the Kairos Power FHR (KP-FHR), Kairos’ SMR design uses tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel – a fully ceramic fuel that maintains structural integrity at high temperatures – 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. Due to the nature of the KP-FHR reactor design, tritium will be produced as a by-product of reactor operations, requiring the company to incorporate and maintain engineering controls to ensure the protection of workers and the environment.

While Kairos Power has conducted extensive testing and analysis related to tritium behaviour and management, the company is now working to identify and assess options for a tritium recovery and storage system. Among the many objectives of the CNRI project, CNL will work in partnership 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, a key area of research where Kairos Power is interested in gathering more data.

“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,” commented Dr. Jeffrey Griffin, CNL’s Vice-President of Science and Technology. “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.”

CNL has identified SMRs as one of eight strategic initiatives the company is pursuing as part of its Long-Term Strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR before 2030. The company is working to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMRs and has positioned itself as a global leader in SMR prototype testing and technology development support. As part of the program, CNL issued an invitation in 2018 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.

The next call for CNRI proposals is expected to be released later this year. For more details on the program, please visit

About CNL

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a world leader in nuclear science and technology offering unique capabilities and solutions across a wide range of industries. Actively involved with industry-driven research and development in nuclear, transportation, clean technology, energy, defence, security and life sciences, we provide solutions to keep these sectors competitive internationally.

With ongoing investments in new facilities and a focused mandate, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is well positioned for the future. A new performance standard reinforced with a strong safety culture underscores every activity.

For more information on the complete range of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories services, please visit or contact

CNL Contact:
Patrick Quinn
Director, Corporate Communications
CNL, 1-866-886-2325

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