Will forgings be available for Canadian light water reactors?

If light water reactors (LWR’s) such as those proposed by Areva, Westinghouse and GE Hitachi (now out of the race) are to be built in Ontario then these companies must assure their Canadian customers  that the forgings for them are available. This is a critical resource problem limiting the building of new LWR’s everywhere in the world for the next five to ten years.

 

A Bloomberg article appeared March 12, 2008 that explains this: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&refer=home&sid=aaVMzCTMz3ms

It reports that Japan Steel Works Ltd. is the only manufacturer of these forgings left in the world. They developed the technology during the Second World War for producing large bore guns for battleships. All the facilities elsewhere in the world were shut down during the long drought in reactor orders that is only now ending.

 

This is a major bottleneck because each new LWR requires at least one of the largest forgings for its pressure vessel but Japan Steel Works makes only four per year. Ultimately this means only four new light water reactors can come on stream per year. It takes in the order of eight to ten years or more to construct an LWR and at any given time many reactors may be on order and in various stages of completion.  Even though some reactor vendors may have a few forgings “in the bank” at an estimated $100 million, four LWR’s per year is now a fundamental limitation.

 

The limit may be eased in the next two years if Japan Steel Work’s plans to double its production facilities materialize. However, the company is leery of a possible down turn in orders such as the one that left it unprofitable for three years running. Other producers are contemplating the large investments in new facilities and technology development needed to compete with Japan Steel Works and may come on stream in the next five to ten years. Much depends on the pace of new reactor orders world wide.

 

The question is whether Areva and Westinghouse can guarantee Ontario and perhaps Alberta that the forgings required to built the LWR’s they are proposing will be available. Have they reserved slots for the Canadian LWR’s in Japan Steel Works production schedule?

 

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