US-based Oklo has signed an Option & Right of First Refusal to Purchase Real Estate (land rights agreement) with the non-profit Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) for land including options for the siting of two powerhouses. This is an extension of Oklo and SODI’s May 2023 agreement for land to host two more of Oklo’s Aurora design fast neutron microreactors. Oklo received a site permit in December 2019 from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to build its first Aurora facility at Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

SODI, a community-reuse organisation, plans to deploy two 15 MWe plants at its Portsmouth site near Piketon, Ohio. DOE began transferring parcels of the Portsmouth site to SODI in June 2018 for economic development. The site previously hosted the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, now undergoing decontamination and decommissioning.

Subject to the terms and conditions of the land rights agreement and in exchange for an upfront fee, which will be credited toward any purchase by Oklo under the land rights agreement, SODI has granted Oklo an option and right of first refusal to purchase land in Southern Ohio from SODI.

The collaboration between Oklo and SODI, supported by DOE, derives from the prospective power of public-private partnerships in driving forward the next generation of energy solutions, Oklo noted.

DOE recently reviewed and approved the Safety Design Strategy (SDS) for the Aurora Fuel Fabrication Facility at INL. The Aurora Fuel Fabrication Facility is being designed to demonstrate the reuse of recovered nuclear material to support Oklo’s planned commercial advanced fission power plant demonstration at INL.

Oklo was selected for access to the fuel material through a competitive process launched in 2019 by INL. The goal of the solicitation was to accelerate the deployment of commercially viable reactors by providing developers with access to the material needed to produce fuel for their reactors. The DOE is supporting INL to produce High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) for advanced reactors by recovering uranium through electrorefining treatment on used fuel from the now-decommissioned Experimental Breeder Reactor-II.

“The SDS approval is a major step towards a DOE approval of the Aurora Fuel Fabrication Facility as we continue towards our goal of producing fuel for our planned Aurora commercial power plant,” said Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

The SDS marks the initial stage in a comprehensive DOE approval process prior to the operation of the Aurora Fuel Fabrication Facility. Oklo and Battelle Energy Alliance, operator of INL, are currently working on the next phase, focusing on the Conceptual Safety Design Report (CSDR). The purpose of the CSDR is to summarise the hazard analysis efforts and safety-in-design decisions incorporated into the conceptual design, along with any identified project risks associated with the selected strategies.

The Aurora design uses heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a supercritical carbon dioxide power conversion system to generate electricity. It uses metallic high-assay low-enriched uranium, (HALEU) fuel. Oklo says the reactor builds on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) and space reactor legacy. EBR-II features a hexagonal fuel element with a sealed heat pipe and a passive air-cooling system.

Image (top left): Oklo has a partnership with Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative at the DOE Piketon Site for its second and third commercial plants (courtesy of Oklo)


Image (right): The Aurora Fuel Fabrication Facility (courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory)