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ORNL 3D prints key component for Kairos Power’s new molten salt reactor

ORNL 3D printed this salt pump impellor for a scaled-down prototype reactor. Credit: Kairos Power


Oak Ridge National Laboratory has successfully 3D printed a salt pump impeller for Kairos Power’s new advanced reactor prototype. The print was done in less than a day and leverages advancements in advanced manufacturing and artificial intelligence that the lab is demonstrating through its Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR) program.

The new manufacturing approach is expected to significantly accelerate the design and deployment of new nuclear technologies. 

After working with Kairos to optimize the impeller for the company’s new molten salt reactor design, ORNL researchers 3D printed the component and sent it to Kairos, which began testing the part within days. The finished impeller met all system requirements on the very first build.

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, allows developers to make complex, three dimensional shapes from a computer design file. Traditional manufacturing methods would have required Kairos to mold, cast, finish, and machine the impeller before testing it. By incorporating 3D printing techniques with real-time data characterization, Kairos was able to cut months off of the design process and save thousands of dollars.

ORNL’s TCR program is funded by the Office of Nuclear Energy and aims to develop, deploy, and operate a 3D printed microreactor within the next five years. The lab is looking to modernize the nuclear industry by coupling additive manufacturing with data analytics to quickly develop and deploy new nuclear technologies.

As part of the demonstration project, TCR is engaging with Kairos and other nuclear industry partners to help them integrate additive manufacturing and data analytics to quickly develop and deploy new technologies.  

“We want to make sure that TCR isn’t done in a bottle,” said ORNL TCR team member Ryan Dehoff. “There has to be broad societal impact and broad applicability to the nuclear community.”

Read the full article on the web site of the Office of Nuclear Energy of the US Department of Energy.