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    NRC wants your thoughts on nuclear fuel facility plan

    January 26, 2023 - Anila Yoganathan


      The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in town to ask residents in Oak Ridge and Anderson County for their input on a proposed facility that would create nuclear fuel in Oak Ridge.

      "It is important for our staff experts to meet with people near the site of the proposed facility because those community members know the area and can alert us to potential impacts of construction and operation of a facility that we should consider in our report," Dave McIntyre, an NRC spokesperson, said in an email to Knox News.

      Who is making the facility?

      The facility would be owned and operated by TRISO-X, a subsidiary of X-Energy, which creates the fuel that powers nuclear reactors and builds the reactors themselves.

      What would this facility do?

      The Oak Ridge facility would develop nuclear fuel by converting uranium, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This fuel can then be used in modernized nuclear reactors, such as small modular reactors, according to the Department of Energy.

      Small modular reactors are being designed and developed by more than 20 companies. These reactors are intended to be less costly, much smaller and safer version of the large nuclear plants currently operating, and they should take less time to build.

      The fuel from the facility would not be used for nuclear weapons, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

      In 2019, the Tennessee Valley Authority was the first utility to receive a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build and operate small modular reactors at a site along the Clinch River in the Roane County portion of Oak Ridge. TVA's decision on whether to invest in small modular reactors is pending.

      The construction of a TRISO-X facility could position it as a supplier of fuel to future operators of small modular reactors, such as TVA.

      The facility could bring about 400 jobs to the area and is set to be the first of its kind, the company told Knox News in October.

      How safe would the facility be?

      As part of the licensing application, the facility would create an emergency plan that would include agreements with local law enforcement and fire and rescue to provide emergency services.

      The NRC would have oversight over the facility, just as it does with TVA's nuclear power plants. "The hazards of fuel fabrication are much lower than for commercial nuclear power reactors," McIntyre said.

      The fuel created at the facility would not be considered "nuclear waste," or the material that comes out of a nuclear reactor. It won't be radioactive or be as physically hot, McIntyre said.

      What input does the Nuclear Regulatory Commission need?

      The TRISO-X facility is in the licensing stage of its application.

      The company submitted its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November 2022. Now, the NRC would like comments from residents about the proposed site, any impact it might have on the environment and to hear questions or concerns. The federal agency's job includes putting together a report on the the environmental impact while also conducting a safety and technical review.

      The NRC is accepting comments until Feb. 14 and is hosting a public meeting 6-8:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Double Tree by Hilton Oak Ridge - Knoxville, Salons A & B. The address is 215 S. Illinois Ave, Oak Ridge.

      Residents also can submit comments online at www.regulations.gov using Docket ID NRC-2022-0201, or via email to


      Comments also can be mailed to the Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attn: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff.

      "The meeting is also an opportunity for the public to learn more about the proposed facility and – more importantly – how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews the application for safety considerations and environmental impacts," McIntyre said in the email.

      Anila Yoganathan is a Knox News investigative reporter. You can contact her at anila.yoganathan@knoxnews.com, and follow her on Twitter @AnilaYoganathan. Enjoy exclusive content and premium perks while supporting strong local journalism by subscribing at knoxnews.com/subscribe.


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