The TRISO-X, LLC Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) will be the nation’s first High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel fabrication facility. TRISO-X is a wholly owned subsidiary of advanced reactor designer X-energy, LLC. TF3 will use uranium enriched between 5% and 20% to produce fuel for advanced and small modular reactors of the future. TF3 will manufacture TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) fuel, an advanced fuel that is tough enough to handle the higher operating temperatures of several advanced reactors under development.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting the development of TF3 through an award with X-energy, LLC under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with the U.S. nuclear industry. The design and license application development of TF3 was also supported through an $18M (federal cost share) industry FOA that was awarded to X-energy in 2018. TF3 will initially provide the TRISO fuel for X-energy's Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor.
“The TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility represents the intersection of some of DOE’s hard work to bring advanced reactors to commercialization,” said Alice Caponiti, DOE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Fleet and Advanced Reactor Deployment. “We’ve been investing in R&D on TRISO fuels for decades. Now, with funding through ARDP, TF3 will bring the next evolution of nuclear fuel to reality, advancing new nuclear technology, creating new jobs, and supporting the clean energy economy.”
DOE has provided more than $200M to support development of TRISO fuel with a specific focus on enhancing its safety performance and manufacturing methods to further develop the capabilities of advanced high-temperature gas reactors.
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 that provide defense in depth and cannot melt in the reactor. The TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility is a significant step towards bringing this innovative technology to market.
The site preparation and construction will start this year with potential commissioning and startup as early as 2025. It is projected that TF3 could bring more than 400 new jobs to the state of Tennessee.
The facility has the capacity to produce eight metric tons per year of TRISO pebble fuel. That is enough fuel to power 12 of X-energy's proposed Xe-100 small modular reactors. The facility will also be capable of manufacturing TRISO fuel forms for other advanced reactor designs. TRISO-X plans to double its fuel production by the 2030s.
The First of Many Milestones to Come
In the fall of 2020, the DOE announced X-energy as one of two awardees through the ARDP. The ARDP funding helped advance the development of the Xe-100 and enabled TRISO-X to develop the world’s first commercial-scale Fuel Fabrication Facility.
This is the culmination of various DOE support to advance nuclear technologies including advanced reactor designs, and TRISO fuel and HALEU research and testing.
“TF3 is a historic milestone for U.S. nuclear licensing on the path to advanced reactor fueling.” said Andrew Griffith, DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, “This demonstrates great progress for DOE and its E-energy partner in fulfilling the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program objectives.”