Forgemasters set to play leading role in nuclear sector

SHEFFIELD Forgemasters has signed a deal which could lead to it playing a major role in plans to develop small scale nuclear power stations across the UK.

Dr Graham Honeyman of Sheffield Forgemasters
Dr Graham Honeyman of Sheffield Forgemasters

Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd (SFIL) and NuScale Power are working together to develop manufacturing techniques for the deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in the UK.

NuScale Power, based in Portland, Oregon, describes itself as developing a new kind of nuclear plant; using a safer, smaller, scalable version of pressurised water reactor technology..

Forgemasters will forge a large civil nuclear reactor vessel head by the end of 2017, as part of a programme supported by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to develop forging systems for the nuclear industry.

A Nuscale spokesman said: “The factory manufacture of major engineered components is central to realising the job and growth potential of SMRs across the UK and to bringing down costs through advanced manufacture techniques.”

Sheffield Forgemasters’ chief executive Graham Honeyman said: “Small Modular Reactors could revolutionise the civil nuclear power industry, by creating more flexible power generation solutions.

“The efficient factory manufacture of major components will be crucial to seeing them deployed cost-effectively and Sheffield Forgemasters has an unparalleled track record in the production of civil nuclear forgings of this size.

“NuScale’s design is one of the most advanced in the world and this forging project will allow us to prove, yet again, that UK manufacturing is at the leading edge of global technological advancement.”

Mr Honeyman said the project with NuScale is a first for the UK and marks an important step forward in developing the concept of small modular reactors for a potential global market.

He added: “In the short term, we will be creating a test-piece which is a body of work we can handle with current staffing numbers, but the longer term potential for Sheffield Forgemasters and the wider UK supply chain could be significant from a jobs creation perspective.

“We are engaged in other civil nuclear projects and this type of manufacture has been a mainstay for Sheffield Forgemasters for many years. Much of this work remains commercially confidential, but by its nature, is similarly innovative and allows us to challenge traditional manufacturing techniques through the application of new methodology and computer modelling techniques.”

Sheffield Forgemasters, which has 638 staff and achieved a turnover of £72.8m in 2015, has a long history of manufacturing large steel components for heavy engineering and nuclear power applications.

Tom Mundy, Nuscale’s managing director for the UK and Europe, said: “Sheffield Forgemasters’ skill, expertise and heritage is known the world over. Working together now is, I hope, the starting point of a lasting relationship that will ultimately see UK-manufactured SMRs generating clean reliable power for the UK grid by the 2020s.”

NuScale is participating in the Government’s competition to choose the best value SMR, which is aimed at seeing SMRs deployed in the UK in the 2020s. This builds on activities in the US, where NuScale is at an advanced stage of development. The first NuScale facility is planned to be in operation in 2024 in Idaho.