X-energy marks start of construction at US fuel plant

17 October 2022

The TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility - or TF3 - in Oak Ridge, Tennessee will be North America's first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility and is set to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

The start of construction was marked with a groundbreaking ceremony(Image: X-energy)

TRISO-X LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of X-energy, developer of the Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled small modular reactor (SMR). X-energy CEO Clay Sell called the TF3 groundbreaking "a monumental moment for advanced nuclear energy as we deliver on the critical promise to drive deep decarbonisation across the planet".

TRISO - short for tri-structural isotropic - fuel can withstand very high temperatures, and is used for high-temperature reactors which typically operate at at 750 to 950°C. TRISO fuel particles - each less than a millimetre in diameter - contain a kernel of enriched uranium oxycarbide surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable to over 1600°C. It has been described as the most robust nuclear fuel in the world.

X-energy's reactor technology is receiving funding under the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) as part of a $3.2 billion program to develop, build, and demonstrate operational advanced reactors by the end of the decade. The TRISO-X nuclear fuel produced in the Oak Ridge facility will be used in Xe-100 reactors, the first of which is expected to be operational by 2028 at a site in Washington state.

TRISO-X earlier this year submitted a licence application for the TF3 to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Initially, the facility will produce 8 tonnes of fuel per year, supporting about 16 advanced reactors including the Xe-100, and is envisaged to increase to 16 tonnes per year by the early 2030s.

"TRISO-X will be the nation's first commercial scale facility dedicated to fuelling reactors that require high-assay low-enriched uranium TRISO particles," said US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff. "It's a job creator and an advanced reactor enabler that will help fuel a transition to a net-zero economy."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News