New advanced reactor fuel facility for expanding GEH site

24 October 2022

Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A) and TerraPower are to build the Natrium Fuel Facility at GNF-A's existing site in North Carolina. The facility is part of a major expansion to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's (GEH) Wilmington operations that will also support commercial deployment of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR).

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Natrium fuel facility took place alongside the announcement. Construction will begin next year (Image: GEH)

The Natrium Fuel Facility will be jointly funded by TerraPower and the US Department of Energy through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The facility "represents an investment of more than USD200 million," according to GE. Construction of the fuel facility, which will use high-assay low enriched uranium, is expected to begin in 2023.

TerraPower last year announced the site of a retiring coal plant near Kemmerer in Wyoming for its Natrium advanced reactor demonstration project. The demonstration plant will feature a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system.

The new facility will will help establish the fuel supply chain that will be required for the deployment of advanced reactors in the USA and globally, Tammy Orr, GNF-A's senior vice president, fuel products, said. "This is a significant investment in our operation, and we're excited to build on our more than 50-year legacy as a fuel manufacturer in support of carbon-free energy generation."

"Reinvigorating the domestic nuclear supply chain is a critical step in building the next generation of reactors," said Tara Neider, TerraPower senior vice president and Natrium project director. "This facility will create a reliable source of fuel for our first demonstration plant and additional Natrium plants in the future."

Wilmington expansion

Once complete, the Natrium Fuel Facility is expected to support up to 100 new, permanent jobs. These jobs are part of newly announced plans from GEH to grow its workforce by 500 over the next five years to support the advanced nuclear growth, including deployment of the BWRX-300. The 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR has already been selected by Ontario Power Generation for the Darlington New Nuclear Project in Canada, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is working with GEH towards the potential deployment of a unit at Clinch River in Tennessee. The reactor has also been selected or is being considered for potential deployment in Saskatchewan, Canada and in Poland.

"We are proud to have hired more than 250 people this year to be part of the team that is advancing the deployment of our carbon-free energy generation technologies," GEH President and CEO Jay Wileman said. "These new, high-paying jobs, will position us to lead the nuclear energy industry into the future, help customers meet climate goals and have a significant impact on the region's economy."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News