Sheffield Forgemasters wins first contract for new nuclear power sector set to employ 40,000

Forgemasters has landed a £3.7m contract to make the first parts for a new generation of nuclear power stations - a sector that could employ 40,000 and be worth £52bn by 2050.

By David Walsh
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 12:21 pm

The Brightside steelmaker will make forgings for small modular reactors after the project was given the green light last month.

It comes after the Qatari Investment Authority this week put £85m into Rolls-Royce SMR. The company has now raised £490m, including £210m from government. The money will be spent finalising the design and gaining regulatory approval for the reactors.

HOW ELSE MIGHT SOUTH YORKSHIRE BENEFIT?

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Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, centre, with Rolls-Royce executives on a visit to Forgemasters hosted by chief executive David Bond, right.

It could also herald new factories in South Yorkshire - Rolls-Royce says it will be talking to Local Enterprise Partnerships at the beginning of next year.

South Yorkshire’s LEP previously gave Boeing £5m to set up a factory in Sheffield and McLaren £12m to build a chassis factory in Rotherham.

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SMRs are seen as a source of ‘green’ and electricity which can be built much faster than traditional power stations. And they offer security of supply at a time when the UK is reliant on electricity from Europe and gas from Russia.

A single SMR power station will occupy around one tenth of the size of a conventional nuclear generation site and power approximately one million homes, it is claimed.

Forgemasters is said to be the only UK company that can produce the parts for SMRs. It was nationalised in summer.

Chief executive David Bond said they were very excited to be working with Rolls-Royce SMR on the ‘first deliverables’ for the project.

He added: “These forgings will be integral to the overall evaluation of routes to manufacture for the Rolls-Royce SMR programme.

“The forgings will require highly detailed simulation work and analysis from our RD&T team to deliver components which will meet exacting nuclear-grade standards.”

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF AN SMR?

A single SMR power station will occupy around one tenth of the size of a conventional nuclear generation site and power approximately one million homes, it is claimed.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the Qatari investment was a ‘clear vote of confidence in the UK’s global leadership in nuclear innovation’.

He added: “It represents a huge step forward in our plan to deploy more home-grown, affordable clean energy - ensuring greater energy independence for the UK, highly skilled jobs and bringing cheaper, cleaner electricity to people’s homes.”

HOW MANY JOBS COULD BE CREATED AND BY WHEN?

Rolls-Royce SMR says it could create 6,000 jobs by 2025 and up to 40,000 by 2050 with a full UK fleet of 16 reactors, costing about £2bn each, and exports.

A spokesman said Rolls-Royce has been a nuclear reactor designer since the start of the UK nuclear submarine programme in the 1950s.

And he sought to reassure people on safety stating Rolls-Royce SMR will draw on standard nuclear energy technology that has been used in 400 reactors around the world.

In July, Forgemasters was acquired for £2.6m by the Ministry of Defence promising to invest £400m over the next 10 years. Up to 50 per cent of the firm’s income is from defence manufacturing, including parts for ships and submarines for the Royal Navy.

South Yorkshire is believed to be well placed to benefit from the SMR programme. It is also home to the Nuclear AMRC research centre, UKAEA’s Fusion Technology Facility and scores of companies with expertise in metals, castings, forgings and fixings.

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