TRISO-X breaks ground on Oak Ridge fuel facility as licensing work continues

October 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Government officials and representatives of X-energy and its TRISO-X subsidiary at the October 13 groundbreaking. (Photo: X-energy)

Leaders of X-energy and its TRISO-X subsidiary gathered on October 13 to break ground at the site of what X-energy bills as “North America’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility” in Oak Ridge, Tenn. X-energy expects the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) to create more than 400 jobs and to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

“Our TRISO-X facility groundbreaking in Oak Ridge is a monumental moment for advanced nuclear energy as we deliver on the critical promise to drive deep decarbonization across the planet,” said Clay Sell, X-energy chief executive officer. “X-energy is thrilled to continue our partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, East Tennessee, the Oak Ridge community, and its best-in-class nuclear workforce. TF3 is well positioned to capitalize on its access to the area’s science and technology hubs to meet the growing domestic and global demand for TRISO-based fuel. It’s our hope and belief that this groundbreaking and subsequent innovations here will catalyze the energy and industrial sectors to move further into the next generation of nuclear energy.”

The plans: The TF3 would be the nation’s first 10 CFR Part 70 Category II fuel facility built to provide high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) enriched up to 20 percent uranium-235 for advanced reactors, including X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor design, which was selected for a full-scale commercial demonstration by the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. Initially, the TF3 will produce 8 metric tons of fuel per year, which, according to X-energy, is enough to support about 16 TRISO-fueled advanced reactors of different designs or 12 Xe-100 reactors. TRISO particle fuel is backed by decades of research and development by the DOE. X-energy will manufacture a proprietary version of TRISO it calls TRISO-X.

“With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, we are proud that TRISO-X is leading the commercial development of this safe, innovative technology and that it will be among the first advanced nuclear fuels demonstrated in a grid-scale next-generation reactor,” said Pete Pappano, president of TRISO-X.

“TRISO-X will be the nation’s first commercial-scale facility dedicated to fueling reactors that require high-assay low-enriched uranium TRISO particles,” said Kathryn Huff, assistant secretary for nuclear energy. “It’s a job creator and an advanced reactor enabler that will help fuel a transition to a net-zero economy.”

Where does licensing stand? TRISO-X applied to the NRC for a fuel fabrication facility license on April 5. On August 9, the NRC sent requests for supplemental information (RSIs) to TRISO-X “for the review areas of General Information, Integrated Safety Analysis, Chemical, Fire, Structural Design, Electrical and Instrumentation and Control, Geotechnical Information, Human Factors, and Criticality.”

Formal review of the license application awaits receipt of the supplemental information. On October 4, the NRC staff and TRISO-X held a closed meeting to discuss TRISO-X’s draft responses and “to seek alignment on the responses to the request for supplemental information.” Licensing information for the project will be updated and a review schedule provided once the NRC receives the supplemental information and an acceptance letter is issued. At the time the license was submitted in April, TRISO-X anticipated an NRC review of 24 to 36 months and planned to proceed with site preparation and construction during the review period.

TRISO-X has continued to submit documentation. On July 29, a third revision of a topical report on its fuel qualification methodology was submitted, superseding previously submitted fuel qualification methodology reports, and on September 23, the company submitted an environmental report for the TF3. According to the NRC, an acceptance review will be conducted for the environmental report.

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