Sheffield Forgemasters will lead a consortium of partners in a research-and-development project to explore the industrialization of electron-beam welding (EBW) in civil nuclear assemblies, with the potential to integrate welding into the manufacturing process. The Sheffield, U.K., company will install an electron-beam welder capable of welding 3-meter-diameter cylinders under localized vacuum and without traditional welding preparation, offering narrower welds than traditional methods plus the ability to weld as part of the manufacturing process, prior to quality heat treatment. It will then manufacture a civil nuclear component to demonstrate a full-sized (4.3 meters high x 3 meters diameter) small modular reactor pressure vessel and also produce several grades of steel alloys suitable for civil fission and fusion nuclear applications within the project's research element.
According to Sheffield Forgemasters, this is a highly advanced manufacturing process that has not yet been brought to industrialization in this sector. Although EBW exists elsewhere, it is used on a smaller scale. The goal is to demonstrate how EBW can improve material characteristics over traditional welding and show how the technology can integrate at manufacture to remove component weld properties at a later stage.