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Ultra Safe Nuclear opens Oak Ridge PFM facility for fuel manufacturing

The 3D printing process for the PFM production line was licensed from Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (Ultra Safe Nuclear), the Seattle-based global leader in the development of nuclear fission microreactors, opened its PFM facility (Pilot Fuel Manufacturing) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The 3D printing process for manufacturing refractory ceramic carbides was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and licensed by USNC for use in the PFM production line.

Located in the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the PFM facility is leveraging the region’s specialized workforce to produce the first fuel for testing and qualification for use in Ultra Safe Nuclear’s advanced Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) Energy System that is gaining traction in the U.S. and world markets.

Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03), Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff, and representatives from Senators Marsha Blackburn’s and Bill Hagerty’s offices were on hand Thursday to tour the USNC Pilot Fuel Manufacturing plant on the eve of commencing radiological operations.

Ultra Safe Nuclear CEO Venneri looks on as ORNL Associate Laboratory Director McCarthy, Congressman Fleischman, Sen. Blackburn Staffer Ivens, Asst. Secretary Huff and TN Lt. Governor McNally tour the new Pilot Fuel Manufacturing facility with special guests.

“I am very excited Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation chose Oak Ridge to base their pilot fuel manufacturing operation,” said Congressman Chuck Fleischman. “Advanced nuclear fuel technologies are essential to bringing next-generation nuclear energy to the market and will allow us to meet our future clean energy needs.”

The PFM facility uses the same production-scale modules for manufacturing TRISO coated fuel particles and the company’s patented Fully Ceramic-Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel that will go into Ultra Safe Nuclear’s future commercial fuel manufacturing facility. PFM is a radiological facility capable of producing FCM for testing and qualification in multiple-kilogram quantities. In the process, PFM will also codify and demonstrate the manufacturing modules that will be used in the company’s future commercial fuel manufacturing factory.

“It’s great to get PFM up and running here in Oak Ridge, which has a uniquely qualified nuclear workforce and contractor community,” said Dr. Kurt Terrani, executive vice president of USNC. “We selected this location specifically and the support we’ve gotten to build out this first-of-its-kind facility with this level of quality and care, on an aggressive schedule and on budget is just phenomenal.”

Ultra Safe Nuclear opens Oak Ridge PFM facility for fuel manufacturing. The 3D printing process was licensed from ORNL
The ribbon cutting ceremony.

The fuel manufacturing processes and modules are based on nuclear fuels research and development efforts of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). As previously mentioned, the 3D printing process for manufacturing refractory ceramic carbides was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and licensed by USNC for use in the PFM production line.

“It’s great to see technology developed at ORNL being used by industry – tech transfer is an important role that the national labs play.” Said Associate Laboratory Director for Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Dr. Kathryn A. McCarthy, ORNL.

Dr. Kathryn Huff, the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy remarked “The group of people here is truly star-studded. I’m incredibly impressed at the folks who have joined us here, and I think it’s an indication of how clearly important this mission is going to be and what part this facility will play in the future of our nuclear energy as we transform this nation into a factory fighting the calamity of climate change.”

Ultra Safe Nuclear opens Oak Ridge PFM facility for fuel manufacturing. The 3D printing process was licensed from ORNL
Left to right, US NRC Deputy Office Director Taylor, US DOE-NE Deputy Asst. Secretary Caponiti, Microsoft Director Noe, NEI President and CEO Korsnick, Constellation VP Kray, Ultra Safe Nuclear CNO Stout tour PFM as Facility Manager Billings describes the facility construction process.

“With this facility, Ultra Safe Nuclear moves one step closer to the commercialization if its fuel production,” stated USNC’s CEO, Dr. Francesco Venneri. “The market is ready. The nation is ready. The world is ready. Ultra Safe Nuclear is proud to be leading the way with the Department of Energy, with Oak Ridge, and with all our partners every step of the way.”

Ultra Safe Nuclear was able to design and construct this privately funded facility in less than twelve months. The PFM facility will produce the first private sector TRISO and FCM fuel in the nation. This groundbreaking presence in Oak Ridge has already created more than 40 highly skilled jobs. The company is committed to rapid and efficient development of its advanced technologies with a focus on delivering tangible products to an energy market that needs nuclear power to shed carbon emissions.

“I’m pleased to welcome Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation to the great state of Tennessee. Today’s announcement serves as evidence of our state’s business-friendly environment, Tennessee’s highly skilled workforce and continued leadership in next generation nuclear technology” said Senator Bill Hagerty”

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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