Framatome expands in US; X-energy wins tax credit for TRISO

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TRISO particle (Source: X-energy)

French nuclear business Framatome is expanding its Mill Ridge Road facility in Lynchburg, Virginia as older plants in the United States are granted life extension licenses and amid increased interest in next-generation nuclear power.

Framatome executives and local politicians broke ground on the $50-million expansion of the Operational Center of Excellence at the end of April.

The center provides specialized training and tooling to service and maintain North America’s nuclear plant operations and develop solutions for advanced and small modular reactors, the company said.

Framatome has also recently modernized its other two facilities in Lynchburg at Old Forest Road and Mount Athos Road.

The Mill Ridge Road expansion will hire some 500 new employees, refurbish its nuclear training center to support the next generation of small and advanced reactor technologies, modernize office space and conference rooms, and increase capacity for an innovation and design school.

X-energy awarded fuel tax credit

X-energy has been awarded a $148.5 million tax credit for the construction of a first-of-a-kind advanced nuclear fuel fabrication facility known as TX-1.

The facility is a wholly owned subsidiary, TRISO-X, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and will produce 714,000 TRISO fuel pebbles a year along with other nuclear fuel products, the company said in a statement.

X-energy’s Xe-100 advanced reactor has been selected as one of two designs to receive design, licensing, construction, and operation support from the U.S. government’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project (ARDP) alongside TerraPower’s Natrium.

The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor uses TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle fuel which is made into poppy-seed-sized particles that are robust and tough enough to work under high temperatures found in advanced reactors such as the Xe-100.

The TX-1 project will create around 400 permanent jobs and 475 construction jobs, the company said.

The ARDP reactors are expected to be deployed early-2030s, but both TerraPower and X-energy are facing potential fuel shortages ever since Russia, a producer, invaded Ukraine.

UAE planning second plant 

The United Arab Emirates (UEA) is planning to offer a tender shortly for the construction of a new four-reactor nuclear power plant, Reuters reported citing three sources familiar with the matter.

The UAE was the first Arab state to operate a nuclear power plant with the South-Korean built 1.4-GW, APR1400 Barakah Pressurized Water Reactor in Abu Dhabi.

Unit 4 of the four-reactor plant was connected to the grid in March 2024.

The UAE aims to award the tender and start construction later in 2024 for the plant to be operational by 2032, the sources told Reuters.

While South Korea would be treated as a preferred bidder, the tender would be open to any potential bidders including the United States, China and Russia, the sources said.

French SMR research project cleared by EU

The European Commission has approved a 300-million-euro ($320-million) French measure to support EDF’s subsidiary Nuward in researching and developing small modular reactors (SMRs), the Commission said in a statement.

The project will concentrate on the design and construction of SMRs based on a simple and modular design and with a power output of less than 300 MWe, it said.

The front-end design is the third phase of the Nuward project which contains five phases. The Commission approved a 50-million-euro measure by France to support the project’s second phase in December 2022.

The aid will take the form of a direct grant to cover R&D through until early 2027 and will support Nuward in sizing the SMR’s modules and components and validating their integration in the SMRs by means of numerical simulators and laboratory tests as well as industrialization studies relating to the modular design and mass production of the reactors.

The Commission approved the aid under the 2022 Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation (RDI Framework).

It found that the measure was sufficiently safeguarded to limit distortions of competition and would facilitate the development of R&D for SMR technology.

Vogtle 4 enters commercial operation

Plant Vogtle Unit 4 has entered into commercial operation, Georgia Power said late April, the second of two new units to begin generating electricity after Vogtle Unit 3 entered commercial operation July 31, 2023 and bringing the entire plant's capacity to around 4,800 MW.

The two reactors mark the first U.S. deployment of Westinghouse’s AP1000 Generation III+ reactors.

“The new unit, which can produce enough electricity to power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses, will provide reliable, emissions-free energy to customers for at least 60 to 80 years,” Georgia Power said in a statement.

The construction of the two units at Vogtle has been plagued by cost and schedule overruns and are up and running seven years later than originally planned and at a budget of more than double the originally projected cost.

The project is owned by Southern Co.'s Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corp. Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and Dalton Utilities.

By Reuters Events Nuclear