The US Department of Energy Department (DOE) on 10 December granted compact fast reactor developer Oklo a permit to build a small nuclear reactor with integrated solar panels at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Oklo is the first non-light water power reactor to receive a site permit, which is effective for the lifetime of the plant. The permit is a critical milestone on the path toward deployment of Oklo’s 1.5MW Aurora plant, recently announced by company co-founders Jacob DeWitte and Caroline Cochran.

Oklo is the first company to complete the new INL site permit application process, which the Energy Department’s Idaho Operations Office established two years ago.

"Completion of the site permit process exemplifies the ability of DOE to support advanced reactor development and deployment," Oklo said in a statement. It also supports objectives laid out by Congress in the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) in 2018 as well as language in proposed legislation.

In 2016, DOE issued a site use permit to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, which plans to own and operate NuScale Power’s small modular reactor.

The next steps if for Oklo to coordinate with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Energy to determine where specifically at the INL complex the reactor can be built. Cochran has said the Oklo site will be less than a quarter of an acre.

The project will be subject to environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, a process which will be led by the NRC.

Photo: Aurora concept rendering (Credit: Business Wire)