(STL.News) – Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) and X-energy today announced a collaboration to produce low-cost, high-quality TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle nuclear fuel.
The companies have signed a teaming agreement for the purpose of developing High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel to potentially supply the U.S. Department of Defense for micro-reactors and NASA for its nuclear thermal propulsion requirements.
“TRISO is a robust fuel form well suited for military and space applications,” said Clay Sell, X-energy CEO. “The extremely high and unnecessary cost of working with HALEU in a Category I NRC facility has, in the past, limited TRISO’s economic viability in the marketplace. Utilizing X-energy’s already operational state-of-the-art equipment in GNF’s licensed facility changes the dynamic for TRISO-fueled reactor deployment.”
“GNF is excited to team with X-energy to bring the revolutionary TRISO fuel form to market,” said Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. “Combining X-energy’s technical knowledge and experience as the only current producer of TRISO fuel and GNF’s licensed operating facility and half century of commercial fuel experience and leadership make this a formidable team.”
By leveraging X-energy’s currently operating commercial-scale TRISO production equipment and GNF’s NRC-licensed fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, the teaming arrangement is expected to produce TRISO fuel of significantly higher quality and at costs that are substantially lower than other potential manufacturers.
TRISO coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and one layer of silicon carbide. These coatings encapsulate all product radionuclei under all operating conditions. X-energy is currently manufacturing TRISO particles at a pilot fuel facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. With two active U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cooperative agreements and cutting-edge capabilities that improve production throughput while maintaining product integrity, X-energy continues to build on the TRISO fuel technology developed under the DOE Advanced Gas Reactor (AGR) Fuel Qualification Program.