Government funds nuclear forging press

Sheffield Forgemasters International (SFIL) has been awarded £140m to install the UK’s first 15,000 tonne forging press to make ultra-large nuclear components. 

SFIL, which also supplies the UK defence industry, secured the final part of the funding package using an £80m government loan announced by business secretary Lord Mandelson at the Sheffield company’s site.

The government’s loan will act as an additional contribution to funding provided by key partners of SFIL, including nuclear power-plant manufacturer Westinghouse. 

The funding agreement means that SFIL will join a group of five companies capable of producing the largest components for nuclear-power reactors.

The group claims the contract will also create hundreds more jobs at its Brightside Lane site.

Graham Honeyman, chief executive at SFIL, said: ‘The government loan forms the final piece of a two-year project to finance the installation of a 15,000 tonne forging press that will place the UK at the peak of a global supply chain for civil nuclear manufacturing. 

‘There are other companies in the world looking to enter the market for these large-scale components, but none will be able to achieve production in the same timescales as SFIL, partly due to the lengthy time it takes to gain international accreditation to manufacture for the nuclear industry.’ 

According to the company, the demand for heavy nuclear forgings is set to more than triple by 2020, reaching 70,000 tonnes with global capacity only able to supply 59,000 tonnes over the same timescale. 

Graham added: ‘In order to place Britain in a position to capitalise on this deficit, SFIL will push through its plans, within the next three years, to make major castings and forgings for the power generation industry.’

A report by business analyst Frost & Sullivan last year highlighted the issues that such disparity between supply and demand demonstrate. 

It stated that the main downside of an increase in nuclear projects concerned the availability of heavy equipment and long lead times.

The majority of equipment for new generation plants currently comes from international suppliers and nuclear-related companies that have been working at full capacity.