X-energy awarded federal tax credit for TRISO fuel plant

24 April 2024

A USD148.5 million federal tax credit has been awarded to X-energy for the construction of the first-of-a-kind facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The TX-1 fuel fabrication plant will be constructed by the company's TRISO-X subsidiary and is designed to produce up to 714,000 TRISO fuel pebbles per year.

A rendering of the plant at ORNL (Image: US NRC/X-energy)

The tax credit is funded by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act and is part of the Qualifying Advanced Energy Project Tax Credit (48C) programme which is jointly administered by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Department of the Treasury, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Tri-structural isotropic - or TRISO - particle fuel is highly robust fuel in which "kernels" of enriched uranium oxycarbide are surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide which can withstand very high temperatures without melting. TRISO-X manufactures its own proprietary version of TRISO fuel, and has operated a pilot nuclear fuel fabrication facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 2016.

"This award is not just an investment in our technology and innovations, it's a massive step forward for building the supply chain to advance the next generation of nuclear energy," said X-energy CEO Clay Sell. "Strengthening energy security here and around the world requires expanding secure, domestic manufacturing capabilities across the energy sector."

TX-1 will be built on land that was formerly part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, on a campus acquired by TRISO-X from the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board in 2022. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is currently reviewing TRISO-X's application for a 40-year licence to possess and use special nuclear material to manufacture advanced nuclear fuel at the Oak Ridge facility. The NRC review of the application, submitted in 2022, is currently about 45% complete, according to information from the regulator.

In written testimony to a US House of Representatives subcommittee earlier this year, X-energy Vice President of Global Business Development Benjamin Reinke said TX-1 will be the company's first commercial scale fuel facility. It will support the initial deployment of the Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor at materials science company Dow's Seadrift facility in Texas, which is expected to be the first grid-scale advanced nuclear reactor deployed to serve an industrial site in North America. Both the initial reactor deployment and the TX-1 facility are supported by the DOE's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

According to that filing, TX-1 is expected to begin licensed operations in 2026. Four Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactors are envisaged in operation at Seadrift by the end of the decade.

The TX-1 project is expected to create some 400 permanent jobs and 475 construction jobs, X-energy said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News