US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), which is developing fourth-generation gas-cooled microreactors has selected Gadsden in Alabama as the location of the company’s MMR Assembly Plant (MAP). The facility will manufacture, assemble, test, and inspect the non-radiological modules needed to construct USNC’s Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR). No radioactive material will to be used or stored at the facility. The 578,000 square foot highly automated factory will feature state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing processes and equipment and will be capable of producing up to 10 complete MMR nuclear units a year.
USNC’s MMR is a high-temperature gas-cooled “nuclear battery” design will use Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) nuclear fuel. USNC has active micro reactor deployment projects in Canada at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, in the USA at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and at LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland and in Poland. Additional projects are under development in the USA, Canada, and Europe.
FCM fuel enhances safety through proprietary technology to embed TRISO particles in a silicon carbide matrix. In August 2022, USNC opened its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), to produce the first fuel for testing and qualification for use in the MMR.
The decision to locate the assembly plant in Gadsden followed a year-long search spanning 16 states and hundreds of potential sites. Primary factors evaluated included site suitability and infrastructure, skilled workforce availability, and overall project economics. USNC and the State of Alabama formalised the deal through a Project Agreement executed by Governor Kay Ivey and the company.
The non-nuclear production facility represents a $232m investment in advanced nuclear infrastructure. When operational, MAP will employ 250 professional and technical workers. USNC representatives note significant potential for expansion and export as demand for the MMR high-temperature gas reactor gains global interest and traction. USNC says there is also potential for its suppliers to establish a local presence, contributing to growth and opportunity in and around Gadsden.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said: “This unique facility will benefit the Gadsden community through a significant investment and the creation of good jobs while also reinforcing Alabama’s reputation for cutting-edge manufacturing operations.”
Image: Artist's impression of the MAP facility (courtesy of USNC)