Planning Commission plans to rezone nuclear fuel fabrication

The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission on Thursday, July 21, 2022 will consider rezoning 110 acres at the Horizon Center for a nuclear fuel fabrication business. (Image of the Town of Oak Ridge)

The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission will consider rezoning 110 acres at the Horizon Center for a nuclear fuel fabrication business on Thursday.

The property (lot 6a) was purchased from the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board by TRISO-X LLC, a nuclear fuel company that announced plans to expand to Oak Ridge in April 2022, company staff said. town. The company said it hopes to bring hundreds of high-skilled, high-paying jobs to the Oak Ridge area and strengthen “Oak Ridge’s well-deserved reputation as a center of innovation and excellence.” American nuclear weapons.

Lot 6a is currently vacant and located at the rear of Horizon Center in the area where a motorsports park was once proposed.

“I am thrilled that TRISO-X has chosen Oak Ridge and Horizon Center as the location for its new manufacturing facility, proving that Oak Ridge continues to lead the way in energy and technology advancements,” said IDB President David Wilson. “The job creation, tax revenue and supporting industry co-location that I anticipate this project will bring to our community has the potential to create economic growth that will benefit all of Oak Ridge and the regions. nearby. »

Artist’s rendering of the proposed TRISO-X World Headquarters and Commercial Fuel Facility in the Horizon Center Industrial Park in Oak Ridge.

If approved by the Planning Commission, the property would be rezoned from Industrial District IND-2 to Industrial District IND-3. It would be the first property in the city to be zoned IND-3.

The IND-3 zone was added to the city ordinance in 1999, around the time the Horizon Center property was initially under development. Previously, the city had only IND-1 and IND-2 districts. City staff said meeting notes from the time indicated that part of the reason for the new IND-3 area was for potential use in Horizon Center.

Permitted uses in the IND-3 district include heavy manufacturing, warehousing and wholesale facilities, helipads, utility facilities, broadcast and telecommunications towers, research and development, and airports .

“Ultimately, however, the IND-2 neighborhood was chosen based on the ‘type of tenants expected to move into Horizon Center,’ as noted in the September 1999 Planning Commission Minutes” , staff said in Thursday’s meeting agenda.

The type of industrial classification code used by TRISO-X (325180) is currently not allowed in IND-2 but is allowed in IND-3, which is why rezoning was requested, city staff said. .

“As we know from the city, the rezoning of Lot 6a from IND-2 to IND-3 will ensure that there is no doubt about the company’s ability to fully utilize Lot 6a to develop and operate an NRC-licensed fuel fabrication facility,” TRISO-X President Peter J. Pappano said in a July 13 letter to Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson.

“It is important to note that the IND-3 district is the most intensive industrial district in the city and is not necessarily appropriate in all industrial areas,” city staff said. “Industrial areas of the city with nearby commercial or residential development would not be suitable sites for the IND-3 zone. The Horizon Center, however, is in a relatively isolated area, heavily shielded from commercial or residential development by other industrial properties, conservation areas, and/or federally owned properties.

The TRISO-X project will be regulated by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A site plan would be required prior to any development, and would be reviewed by Oak Ridge City staff.

City staff recommended approval of the rezoning.

X-energy TRISO particle
A TRISO uranium fuel particle made by X-energy is pictured above under a scanning electron microscope, showing each of the layers around the core. (File photo courtesy of X-energy)

TRISO-X Announces Projects

Pappano announced that TRISO-X had selected Lot 6a for its fuel fabrication facility at an April 4 meeting of the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board.

The project is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, city staff said at the time. It will be a one-of-a-kind facility producing tristructural isotropic fuel (TRISO) for nuclear reactors. (Isotropic average of equal physical properties along all axes.) The fuel could be used by advanced or small-scale nuclear reactors, as well as for space nuclear projects.

“The Department of Energy calls TRISO the toughest nuclear fuel on Earth,” Pappano said at the time, “TRISO is a technology that has been developed and refined over 60 years.”

“TRISO-X is at the forefront of new nuclear technology, providing innovative solutions to help the utility industry – and the nation – achieve net zero carbon emissions,” said Jeff Lyash, president and CEO of the management of the Tennessee Valley Authority. “At TVA, we believe that advanced nuclear power is the best choice for clean, low-cost, 24-hour generation, and I am honored to welcome TRISO-X as they join other innovators in Oak Ridge to shape our energy future. ”

Called TF3, the facility would be 500,000 square feet in size and produce eight metric tons of fuel per year. TF3 is expected to generate more than 400 jobs and bring nearly $300 million in community investment, according to an April press release. The company plans to begin preparation and construction of the site in 2022, with plans to start it as early as 2025. TRISO-X also plans to expand production capacity to 16 metric tons per year in the 2030s.

“The City of Oak Ridge welcomes TRISO-X to our community, and we are thrilled to be part of the team supporting their vital work,” Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch said in April. . “Oak Ridge has a history as a world leader in advanced nuclear technologies. The expertise and resources are there to help this innovative company manufacture fuel for the next generation of safe and reliable power generation.

TRISO-X LLC is a subsidiary of X-energy LLC. They would build the nation’s first fuel fabrication facility for high-dosage low-enriched uranium. It would be commissioned in part with funding from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

“The Department is pleased with the progress TRISO-X has made to date in developing a commercial-scale capability to fabricate this robust form of fuel in support of our Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, and we believe that the Oak Ridge area is an excellent choice for this facility based on the availability of a technology-focused workforce and strong community support for the Department’s nuclear mission,” said Alice Caponiti, DOE assistant assistant secretary for the reactor fleet and advanced reactor deployment, said in a X-energy April press release.

High-grade low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, has a concentration of uranium-235 greater than 5% but less than 20%. This compares to 4-5 percent for low-enriched uranium, which is what is used today in commercial nuclear reactors. Future reactors could use HALEU because, among other factors, U-235 would be more concentrated, allowing fuel assemblies and reactors to be smaller.

The maximum concentration of 20% U-235 in HALEU would still be well below what is needed to make nuclear weapons or power US submarines and aircraft carriers.

Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that TRISO coated fuels start with a uranium core. They are coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and a layer of silicon carbide. Coatings are designed to encapsulate, or enclose, radioactive materials under all operating conditions.

X-energy has fabricated TRISO particles at a pilot fuel facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and has contracted with Centrus Energy Corporation to support further work on fuel production for advanced nuclear reactors.

“We have seen growing interest in our work over the past few years, especially since the establishment of the TRISO-X subsidiary,” Pappano said. “The Department of Defense and NASA are currently two of our government customers. TF3 will be used to continue supporting state-funded projects, such as mobile reactors for military or space nuclear projects.

“Our team has been working at Oak Ridge since 2016. We now have approximately 40 employees and five sites, two of which are operational facilities: our TRISO-X pilot facility located inside Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Research Center and TRISO-X research. Development center located in the Centrus Technology Manufacturing Center.

The TRISO-X pilot facility operates inside Oak Ridge National Laboratory through a public-private partnership and produces kilograms of HALEU fuel. (Photo by X-Energy)
The TRISO-X Research and Development Center operates inside the Centrus Technology Manufacturing Center and will be used to train commercial TF3 operators (note; image taken in 2021 before the proprietary equipment was put in place , shown in inset) (Photo by X-Energy)

Commission reviews residential projects

Also on the Thursday night agenda for the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission are updates on residential developments in western and central Ridge. The first is a final flat for a subzone comprising 16 lots at Preserve at Clinch River (the former Rarity Ridge west of Oak Ridge), and the second is a master plan amendment that may allow single-family homes. and apartments on 81 acres at Groves Park Commons near Tuskegee Drive.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21 in the hearing room of the Oak Ridge Municipal Building.

You can see the agenda here.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

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