A UK manufacturer will be able to supply ultra-heavy forgings for nuclear power plants after a strategic government loan announced today.
|One of Sheffield Forgemasters' nuclear
components: a pump casing destined
for a Westinghouse reactor in China
The crucial addition of an £80 million ($122 million) loan was the final part of a two-year effort to finance a 15,000 tonne press at Sheffield Forgemasters capable of producing and finishing the largest reactor pressure vessels.
The government support, from the £950 million ($1.4 billion) Strategic Investment Fund, makes the up largest portion of the £140 million ($210 million) cost of the press. Other contributions came from reactor vendor Westinghouse and Lloyds Banking Group.
Sheffield Forgemasters already holds the 'N-Stamp' accreditation from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, "enabling it to roll out production of the largest forgings within as little as three years from the press' installation," according to chief executive Graham Honeyman.
With plans in the UK for a new Areva EPR to operate at the end of 2017, and three more following at 18-24 month intervals, it is conceivable that even early units could feature main forgings made in Britain.
The rest of the UK's build program comes later, with perhaps another by six to eight reactors by 2025. Reactor designs for the these units are yet to be selected, and Westinghouse is hopeful of some contracts. It said the new press "Puts the UK at the heart of its supply chain" and is consistent with its "buy where we build" approach to business. It has already used Sheffield Forgemasters to make main pump casings for Chinese projects.
According to a report by the Nuclear Industry Association, UK companies could supply about 50% of components for the country's forthcoming reactors but this figure could reach 70% with the right investments, the new press being one key example.
The UK government is pleased that major components could be made domestically, but both it and Sheffield Forgemasters are also looking at exports. The company said it is now in 'pole position' to capitalize on worldwide demand for new reactors in coming years. Only a few other companies have the same kind of capability, it said. Firms such as Japan Steel Works, Doosan Heavy Industries of South Korea and China First Heavy Industries.
However, Doosan is planning a new large press to operate from around 2012, as is OMZ Izahora of Russia. Other entrants in the ultra-heavy market could include India's Bharat Heavy and Larsen & Toubro as well as Shanghai Electric.
Sheffield Forgemasters was not troubled by the future plans of other suppliers, commenting of other firms that "none will be able to achieve production in the same timescales..." in part due to the accreditation and experience some of them need to successfully supply the nuclear industry. Another factor will be the state-controlled nature of some firms and that domestic demand in China, Russia and India could keep their manufacturers fully booked.
The supply chain investment comes as part of the UK government's Low Carbon Transition Plan, which has already seen the establishment of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Centre and a 'Low Carbon Economic Area' for civil nuclear in the north west of England. The government said: "Together, these will create a region of excellence in the civil nuclear supply chain."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News