Forgemasters 15K Press Project is Back on the Table

March 15, 2011
U.K. forger reconsiders last years plan for a new production line
British forger Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd. is considering whether and how to revive its plan to install a new, 15,000-metric ton forging press at its plant in Sheffield, England. The project, conceived in order to produce parts for the global nuclear power market, was cancelled last summer when expected government financing was cancelled by the U.K.’s Conservative/Liberal coalition government. Britain’s previous, Labour government had agreed to a $128-million loan that would secure the private financing for the reported $225 million project. Local news reports quote a SFIL board member, Peter Birtles, confirming that the company’s review of the project is underway and may continue for several months. "We are updating all the numbers and data," Birtles told The Independent newspaper. "There is a firm underlying belief that this project should go ahead for the good of the country and for the good of the company. But, it's whether the numbers stack up." The coalition government’s Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, reportedly agreed to reconsider the loan if the company would review its plans this year to establish that it is still financially viable. The new press was conceived in a period during which there has been a significant increase in global demand for forged components to build nuclear reactors, specifically for reactor pressure vessel heads, the massive units that cap the chambers in which nuclear fuel is combusted to generate heat that produces steam to power turbines. The demand is not only for components to be installed in new or planned reactors; there is also demand for components to replace pressure vessel heads in aging nuclear power plants. At the present time, only five producers are capable of forging such large-scale components, including Japan Steel Works Ltd. and Doosan Heavy Industries in South Korea. SFIL is an accredited supplier of components to nuclear power plants. The new press would join its 10,000-mt press, which is limited to supplying smaller components for the emerging class of larger reactors, such as the Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000 reactor and Areva’s European Pressurized Reactor. Birtles is leading the review along with SFIL chairman Tony Pedder and CEO Graham Honeyman.