Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sheffield will forge a nuclear future for UK

imagePartnership with Westinghouse highlights practice of “we buy where we build.”

The U.K. government will loan Sheffield Forgemasters {L}80 million (US 122 million) to build a 15,000 tonne press and manufacturing center to supply very-large forgings needed to build nuclear reactors. The U.K. government has committed to fund and construct 11 new reactors by 2025.

Westinghouse U.K. CEO Mike Tynan said in a statement the firm will make a substantial contribution to construction of the facility though he declined to specify the exact amount. The Financial Times reported the level of investment to be in the range of “tens of millions” of pounds.

Tynan also said that the deal with Sheffield isn’t an exclusive arrangement and that other firms that want to build reactors in the U.K. are welcome to invest in the facility.

He said the action by Westinghouse was intended to “send a strong signal” to other firms planning to participate in the aggressive schedule set by the U.K. government for new reactors. The joint arrangement is also part of the marketing campaign by Westinghouse to build its AP1000 reactors in the U.K.

“This is a pinch point in the global supply chain. It is a huge commitment from Westinghouse, recognizing our faith in the UK supply chain. The fact that we are choosing to invest in a UK company sends a signal that the nuclear renaissance is happening and other companies should be looking to get involved.”

The investment of public and private funds in the Sheffield site is a major step forward for the U.K. nuclear industry. It will supply pressure vessels and steam generators that previously could only be obtained from Japan Steel Works. Orders have to be placed years ahead of the decision to actually build a reactor just to get a place in line for the components.

Reactor firms line up

sheffield forge photoGraham Honeywell, CEO of Sheffield, said the firm holds the ASME “N- Stamp” accreditation for components which will speed up the pace for producing new products. The largest forgings could be produced in as little as three years.

Areva could be among the first customers for the forgings with plans to complete the first 1,650 MW EPR reactors by 2017 and three more to be build with completion dates at 18-24 month intervals following the first.

The U.K. has plans for another six-to-seven reactors by 2025 which is where Westinghouse is seeking its market share. Tynan said the new press, “puts the plant at the heart of the U.K. nuclear supply chain.” His firm has placed orders for pump casings with Sheffield to install them in four new AP1000 reactors being built in China.

U.K. is one of five sites investing in large forgings

Lord MandelsonSpeaking for the U.K. government, Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, (left) told the Telegraph U.K., March 26 the decision to provide the loan to Sheffield was part of a strategy of developing the nuclear supply chain ahead of orders for new reactors. He stressed that other firms can invest in the facility. The government’s share of the {L}140 million cost is 57% and the remainder will be made up by other investors including Westinghouse.

World Nuclear News reported March 17 that other countries with plans to build large forgings facilities include Doosan in Korea, OMZ Izahora in Russia, two Indian firms – Bharat Heavy and Larsen & Toubro; and Shanghai Electric in China.

In the U.S. there are no plans on the immediate horizon to build a large forgings plants. However, Areva and Westinghouse are investing in nuclear component manufacturing centers in the U.S. which will also serve export markets.

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