First Xe-100 plant could be operational by 2028 Proponents say nuclear plants like the Xe-100 could be built quicker and less expensively than traditional models. Courtesy X-energy. Work has begun on the construction of a $300m nuclear fuel fabrication plant for next-generation nuclear reactors in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

X-energy’s Triso-X facility is being funded initially as part of a $3.2bn federal programme to develop, build and demonstrate advanced 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 US Department of Energy said the fuel fabrication facility has the capacity to produce eight metric tonnes 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,” Tennessee Republican senator Marsha Blackburn said.

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.

Bringing Nuclear Power Within Reach

Proponents say such nuclear plants could be built quicker and less expensively than traditional models.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MW reactor that can be scaled into a “four-pack” 320 MW power plant and even larger as needed. According to X-energy it can be manufactured and shipped to site using existing road and rail, bringing nuclear power within reach for countries, utilities and communities.

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.

In August, X-energy and US-based chemicals company Dow said they will collaborate to deploy Xe-100 reactor technology at one of Dow’s US Gulf Coast sites.

Dow, based in Midland, Michigan, said the reactor is expected to be operational by 2030. It said the Xe-100 would provide cost-competitive, carbon free process heat and power to the Dow facility.

In July, X-energy and Ontario Power Generation signed an agreement to look for opportunities to deploy the Xe-100 reactor at industrial sites in Ontario and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada.

Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2022
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