Sheffield Forgemasters Achieves Milestone in Welding Technology with Completion of SMR Nuclear Vessel Demonstrator

by Anna

Sheffield Forgemasters, a leading manufacturer in the UK, has achieved a significant milestone in welding technology with the completion of the first full-sized Small Modular Reactor (SMR) nuclear vessel demonstrator assembly. This ground-breaking achievement signals a global leap in welding technology and sets a new standard for weld-joining thick-walled components.

The construction of the SMR vessel at Sheffield Forgemasters showcases the industrialization of Local Electron-Beam Welding (LEBW), a process pioneered by the company. The vessel, with a diameter of three meters and a wall thickness of 200mm, features four thick nuclear-grade welds completed in less than 24 hours. This remarkable feat, typically requiring a year of work to complete using conventional methods, demonstrates the reliability and capabilities of LEBW.


Professor Jesus Talamantes-Silva, research, design, and technology director at Sheffield Forgemasters, expressed delight at reaching this significant milestone, emphasizing the success of LEBW with 100% success and no defects. The company deployed specially developed parameters, including innovative sloping-in and sloping-out techniques, to ensure clean and complete welds.


Sheffield Forgemasters is the only company in the UK with the capability to manufacture the large forgings required for SMRs, giving it a significant developmental lead over global competitors in welding thick-walled assemblies. Dr. Michael Blackmore, senior development engineer and project lead, highlighted the monumental implications of LEBW technology within the nuclear industry, potentially reducing costs and expediting the roll-out of SMR reactors.


Dr. Jacob Pope, development engineer and LEBW machine tool installation lead, expressed gratitude to the Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero for enabling the project through its Nuclear Innovation Program. Additionally, Sheffield Forgemasters acknowledged the support of its esteemed partner, Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, whose assistance played an instrumental role in the success of this milestone.


The demonstration of LEBW technology’s potential opens new horizons for more efficient, low-cost, and less time-intensive nuclear assemblies. This breakthrough also has far-reaching implications for other projects requiring thick-walled welded assemblies. Future activities include a joint industrial project supported by key participants from the USA and UK, aimed at facilitating the deployment of this technology in accordance with industry standards.

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