TRISO-X LLC (“TRISO-X”), a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC (“X-energy” or the “Company”), a leading developer of advanced small modular nuclear reactors and fuel technology for clean energy generation, marked another step forward in the licensing of its fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC” or “Commission”) hosted its first public meeting for the proposed facility. TRISO-X has requested a 40-year license to possess and use special nuclear material to manufacture advanced nuclear fuel at what will be the first-ever commercial-scale fuel fabrication facility focusing on the use of high-assay low-enriched uranium (“HALEU”).
The NRC presented its proposed 30-month review timeline at the meeting in Oak Ridge on January 25, 2023. Approximately 70 residents, community organizations, and representatives attended the meeting to provide the NRC input on the scope of its review and engage directly with Commission staff. NRC representatives also toured TRISO-X’s pilot fuel fabrication facility located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as well as the proposed site of the commercial fuel fabrication facility. The TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (“TF3”) is expected to be a significant participant in future advanced reactor deployment starting in the mid-2020s, and is anticipated to create more than 400 jobs in eastern Tennessee.
“We’re pleased to see the community so engaged and supportive of our efforts to create sustainable economic opportunities by building on the proud nuclear energy tradition that has existed in Oak Ridge for decades,” said Dr. Pete Pappano, President of TRISO-X. “This is a community and region that well understands the potential of advanced nuclear energy, and we look forward to ongoing engagement with the community and the NRC throughout the license application review process.”
Tri-structural isotropic (“TRISO”) particle fuel is “the most robust nuclear fuel on the planet,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”), because it can withstand very high temperatures without melting, which is key to its safety. TRISO-X manufactures its own proprietary version of TRISO—also called TRISO-X—to ensure supply, to control quality, and to reduce costs. TRISO-X has operated a pilot nuclear fuel fabrication facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 2016, serving as a demonstration facility of the Company’s patented TRISO fabrication processes.
In 2020, the DOE selected X-energy for their Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (“ARDP”) to receive up to $1.2 billion of federal cost-shared funding to develop, license, build, and demonstrate operational advanced reactors by the end of the decade. The TRISO-X nuclear fuel produced in the Oak Ridge TF3 will be used in X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, the first of which are expected to be operational by 2029.
As previously announced on December 6, 2022, X-energy has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Ares Acquisition Corporation (NYSE: AAC), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company. Upon the closing of the transaction, which is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2023, the combined company will be named X-Energy, Inc. and its common equity securities and warrants are expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by AAC’s shareholders, the Registration Statement being declared effective by the SEC, and other customary closing conditions.