Forgemasters joins quest for limitless green power from nuclear fusion

Forgemasters has won a contract to build a key part of a nuclear fusion power plant – as part of the UK’s quest to unlock the secrets of limitless green power.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 12:27 pm

The Brightside steelmaker has been hired by General Fusion to make an interior vessel for a demonstration plant.

It will use its experience of making part for nuclear power plants to forge a thick-walled pressure vessel.

In nuclear fusion, hydrogen is heated to 100 million degrees celsius to produce high-speed neutrons which are used to create steam to drive electricity turbines. It uses seawater as fuel, not radioactive uranium, and waste has low radioactivity and only a 12-year half-life.

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General Fusion’s proposed demonstration Fusion Plant.

Jesus Talamantes-Silva, research, design and technology director at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “Fusion energy has the potential to be the fuel of the future – the key to carbon-free economies. We are thrilled to collaborate with General Fusion.

“Our initial remit includes evaluation of potential steel grades, modelling of forging and heat treatment processes and their effects on microstructure and properties.

“The scale and manufacturing complexity of the vessel presents significant challenges at all stages, which combined with an element of ‘concurrent design’, requires a flexible and responsive approach to the work.”

The General Fusion demonstration plant will be showcased at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire.

The UKAEA is also close to completing a £22m fusion energy research centre on the border between Rotherham and Sheffield.

The Fusion Technology Facility will develop technologies such as welding novel metals and ceramics and help UK firms win contracts in the construction of the multi-billion euro International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France which is set to be switched on in five years.

It will also work with research organisations including the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

The site, next to the McLaren carbon fibre chassis factory on Whittle Way, on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, will employ 40.

In July last year, bosses said the Fusion Technology Facility would start to be fitted out from September, with operations planned to start in summer 2021.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.