One of the more frequently mentioned constraints on new nuclear power plant construction is the production of large steel components like reactor pressure vessels. Until recently, there was only one place outside of Russia – Japan Steel Works – with the capability to produce the 500 ton forgings required to allow the manufacture of a reactor pressure vessel without welding pieces together.
I think I have probably been guilty of mentioning that constraint several times myself, implying that the line waiting for the large components was a hinderance to large power plant production. Of course, I happen to prefer smaller nuclear plants, so perhaps I was engaging in some wishful thinking or unconscious marketing.
According to Forgemasters to pump up capabilities? there will be a number of alternative suppliers for the large components within just a few years. That should not be surprising, after all, pouring steel is a pretty well known art. The only real reason for the shortage of suppliers for super large components was that there was not much of a demand for them for a long time.
Here is a quote from the article to provide some scope of the number of companies entering the field:
Given a press capable of dealing with 500 tonne ingots, Sheffield Forgemasters could join the club of large reactor pressure vessel salesmen in just three years. This timing would enable the company to take part in the UK’s new-build program which could see up to eight new nuclear power units built, the first operating in 2017.
Currently, Japan Steel Works is seen as the leader in large forgings, but it is far from the only company to offer them. Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries can also produce the items. Mitsubishi are doubling their capacity.
The OMZ Izhora facility will make all the large forgings for Russia’s nuclear build plans. It too is doubling capacity. France’s Areva is installing larger forging capacity at Le Creusot.
Chinese firms Harbin Boiler Works, Dongfang Boiler Group and Shanghai Electric Group are preparing to enter the very large forgings market, while Larsen & Toubro in India are hoping to be allowed to export their forgings.