X-energy said it completed the basic design of its high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, a milestone development announced by the U.S. Department of Energy’s nuclear office.

Maryland-based X-energy has received funding from DOE to further develop its Xe-100 advanced reactor design and TRISO-X particle fuel.

The six-year project resulted in X-energy completing the Xe-100’s basic design and fabricating its first TRISO fuel pebbles using natural uranium at a pilot facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The company now plans to try to license the reactor through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The goal is to have a unit operational by 2028, starting with a 320 MW four-unit Xe-100 power plant in Washington state.

The Xe-100 reactor is intended to provide flexible electricity output as well as process heat for industrial heat applications, such as desalination and hydrogen production. 

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X-energy said it also hopes to license the country’s first commercial facility dedicated to fueling HALEU-based reactors as part of DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The company submitted their application to build this facility in early April. According to DOE, it could be operational as soon as 2025.

The 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 woukd 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.

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.

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