SFIL to Table Plans for 15,000-mt Press

April 25, 2011
U.K. forger is focused on nuclear-market products with from smaller machine
Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd. will not seek a government loan to finance construction of a new, 15,000-metric ton forging press at its plant in Sheffield, England. The project, first proposed in 2008 under the U.K.’s former Labour government, was a strategy by the engineering group to produce parts for the global nuclear power market. During the 2010 general election, Labour candidates had agreed to a $128-million loan that would secure the private financing for the reported $225 million project. It was cancelled last summer when the new Conservative/Liberal coalition came into government, but then returned this spring when company officials said they would reconsider their proposal. The new press was a response to the global market’s significant demand increase 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. The CEO said the company has shifted its attention to producing forgings with its 10,000-metric ton press, some of which are novel and unique to SFIL and may have benefits for its nuclear and power-generation customers. Of the latest decision not to bid again, SFIL CEO Graham Honeyman cited differences in the economic outlook and nuclear industry demand, along with short notice for revising its bid under Britain’s Regional Growth Fund program, which has a deadline looming in June. “Our original proposal was initiated three years ago and so considerable reworking needs to be completed for us to submit a reviewed proposal offering workable solutions,” Honeyman told local news outlets. “This requires sufficient time to cover all relevant issues, including supply, market demand, updated hardware costs, availability, and consideration of the U.K.’s own development of a civil nuclear power program.” Honeyman emphasized that SFIL is maintaining its plans to install the press, but that the timing is not in keeping with the government’s deadline.