Sheffield Forgemasters set to regain key nuclear accreditation

11 December 2023

The UK company says it is on track to regain ASME status as a supplier of heavy forgings and castings to the civil nuclear market, to position it for the proposed large-scale expansion of nuclear capacity in the country.

The company has agreements with a number of SMR developers (Image: Sheffield Forgemasters)

Sheffield Forgemasters, which was acquired by the UK's Ministry of Defence in 2021, says an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Section III Division I NCA 3300, NCA 4000 and NQA-1 Code survey and audit, recommended it for Material Organisation (MO), and welding (NPT) accreditations. ASME MO and NPT status means it can supply castings and forgings (material) for civil nuclear applications and also be qualified to carry out weld construction activities on these materials.

The ASME committee on nuclear certification is now expected to approve the audit's findings and grant the certificate, making the company the only UK producer of such heavy forgings and castings to physically weld-fabricate what are safety-critical components for nuclear power plants. The company, based in the city of Sheffield, originally gained ASME accreditation as a Nuclear Material Organisation in 1992, but that had lapsed, with the lack of nuclear new-build in the following years, instead the focus being on developing technologies for SMRs.

Sheffield Forgemasters Group Technical Director Ian Nicholls said: "The accreditation is a huge development with enhanced requirements and disciplines embracing all our processes, employees and selected sub-suppliers. Code compliance is a significant undertaking for any company wishing to enter the UK civil nuclear supply chain, requiring comprehensive understanding to avoid code violation. Businesses will need to understand how to engage with this process and currently, very few UK companies do."

The UK's energy strategy, unveiled in April, set the target for eight new reactors plus small modular reactors to produce 24 GWe capacity by 2050, meeting about 25% of the UK's projected electricity demand. The UK currently generates about 15% of its electricity from about 6.5 GW of nuclear capacity. The first new nuclear capacity in the UK for about 30 years is being built by EDF at Hinkley Point C - two EPRs producing 3.2 GW of electricity - with a final investment decision also expected on a similar sized project at Sizewell C within the next few months.

There is currently a selection process taking place for SMR technology to be adopted in the UK with six companies - Holtec, Rolls-Royce, Nuward, NuScale, GE Hitachi and Westinghouse - shortlisted ahead of an announcement scheduled for Spring 2024 on which the government will support. The aim is for a final investment decision in 2029, with operational SMRs delivered by the mid-2030s.

Sheffield Forgemasters traces its origins back to the 1750s and it says its global markets "include defence, civil nuclear, offshore, power generation, renewables, steel plant, steel processing and ingot & bar. It has signed  memorandums of understanding with a number of SMR developers in the UK, including Rolls-Royce SMR, NuScale, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Holtec Britain and X-energy.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News