US company X-energy has announced it is to be the exclusive counterparty to supply fuel to Japan's high-temperature gas-cooled reactor under a teaming arrangement with Nuclear Fuel Industries (NFI) of Japan.

TRISO particles (Image: Idaho National Laboratory)

X-energy is purchasing compact press equipment that can make annular fuel compacts for the "prism-type" core from NFI. It will use its TRISO-X fuel facility and the former NFI equipment to form tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel, which seals uranium particles in a protective coating, which the company says eliminates the meltdown risk associated with traditional nuclear plants.

"This is an important step to achieving our mission of creating a greener planet by providing enough carbon-free energy to sustain growing demand around the world," X-energy CEO Clay Sell said.

TRISO nuclear fuel particles, used as fuel for high-temperature reactors, were first developed over 60 years ago. Each particle of fuel contains a kernel of uranium oxide/carbide, encased in carbon and ceramic layers which prevent the release of radioactivity. These are then fabricated into either graphite 'pebbles' or hexagonal graphite blocks.

X-energy has been manufacturing its patented TRISO-X fuel for over three years, and claims to be the only US company to date that is actively producing TRISO fuel. The company is currently engaging with the Department of Energy to further develop and design its TRISO-X fuel facility and is in the process of applying for a loan guarantee from the US government for its construction.

According to World Nuclear Association, Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute's 30 MWt High-Temperature Test Reactor (HTTR) started up at the end of 1998. NFI fabricates and supplies fuel for the reactor.

X-energy is developing the Xe-100 200 MWt (75 MWe) reactor, which will use pebbles of TRISO fuel. It was one of three companies - the others being BWX Technologies Inc and Westinghouse Government Services - selected earlier this year by the US Department of Defense to begin design work on a mobile nuclear reactor prototype.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 01 July 2020
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