The prospect of building a press big enough to make the largest nuclear components at Sheffield in the UK has fallen dramatically with the withdrawal of a key government loan.
|The shell flange of a reactor pressure
vessel for an Areva EPR, the kind of
ultra-heavy component that Sheffield
Forgemasters wanted to begin making.
This one was made by Japan Steel Works
An announcement to parliament today from chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander revealed that an £80 million ($118 million) loan to Sheffield Forgemasters would not now be made. "Some commitments are simply unaffordable, do not meet government priorities and will be cancelled," he said as the new government cut around £11 billion ($16 billion) in spending.
The credit facility from the UK Strategic Investment Fund would have been hugely significant towards the development, with investment from Sheffield Forgemasters itself and Westinghouse making up the rest of the £140 million ($207 million) cost. Forgemasters would have installed a 15,000 tonne press capable of handling 500-600 tonne ingots and producing the largest reactor pressure vessels. The company called the cancellation a "huge disappointment" but reaffirmed its desire to develop in the nuclear sector and to seek alternative funding sources for the press.
Shortly after hearing of the loan's cancellation, Westinghouse told World Nuclear News its offer remained on the table, as did its confidence in Forgemasters as a world-class facility that could play a key role in UK nuclear new build.
Business secretary Vince Cable said Sheffield Forgemasters was a "worthwhile project" but that money had run out. "Sheffield Forgemasters is an important part of the UK's ability to develop a civil nuclear supply chain and its specialist forging skills are in demand globally. However, we have to find a balance between reducing the deficit while helping the economy to grow. Against a backdrop of reduced public spending, the government's role is to create the right business environment and the right skills base."
Renewables were unscathed by the cuts, receiving £72.4 million ($107 million) in grants for four test and demonstration projects.
In a statement emailed to WNN energy minister Charles Hendry said: "Withdrawal of this loan is no reflection on the company, the project, its management or staff, or on our intention to remove unnecessary barriers to new nuclear in the UK. In these difficult times, tough decisions have to be made across government. This is one such decision."
"As we have said from day one we will take the new nuclear agenda forward - without public subsidy - implementing the four facilitative actions on planning, regulatory justification, generic design assessment and on waste and decommissioning finance. We have also pledged to support all forms of low carbon technology with the introduction of a strong carbon floor price and we remain committed to developing a supply chain in the UK."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News