Sheffield Forgemasters announced a breakthrough in the industrialization of electron-beam welding (EBW) for thick-section materials. Using EBW, the company weld-joined two 200-mm-thick (8-inch-thick), 3-meter-diameter (9-foot-diameter) forged vessel sections of nuclear-grade steel. The weld, equivalent to approximately 10 meters (32 feet) in length, was completed in a single pass and in a dramatically short timeframe. The weld was completed in 140 minutes with no reportable defects shown in preliminary nondestructive testing (NDT). A weld of this kind would typically take months and include numerous stages of NDT and heat treatment.
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.