Shovels are in the ground at a $300 million nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

X-energy’s TRISO-X facility is being funded initially as part of a $3.2 billion federal program to develop, build and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors. The goal is for the plant to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

The fuel produced at the facility will be used in X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactors, expected to be operational by 2028. The first project would be a 320 MW four-unit Xe-100 power plant in Washington state.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said the fuel fabrication facility has the capacity to produce eight metric tons per year of TRISO pebble fuel, enough to power 12 of X-energy’s proposed Xe-100 SMRs. The facility would also be capable of manufacturing TRISO fuel for other advanced reactor designs. X-energy said it plans to double its fuel production by the 2030s.

“The work X-energy will do in Oak Ridge will bring the country closer to regaining energy independence while providing a safer, cheaper, and more flexible nuclear fuel option in TRISO-X,” Said U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R- Tennessee).

TRISO is a uranium oxycarbide tri-structural isotropic fuel form first developed in Germany decades ago. Compared with traditional reactor fuels, TRISO fuels are structurally more resistant to neutron irradiation, corrosion, oxidation, and high temperatures due to the application of multiple layers of silicon and carbide coatings cannot melt in the reactor.

Proponents also believe such facilities could be built quicker and less expensively than traditional models.

Maryland-based X-energy previously chose Oak Ridge for a pilot-scale nuclear fuel facility to further develop its TRISO-X fuel and support the Xe-100 design.

Source: X-energy.

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