Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd (SFIL) is positioned to expand into nuclear fabrication after passing a very testing audit to retain its 20-year coveted ASME status as a key supplier of heavy forgings and castings to the civil nuclear power market.
SFIL is on-track to receive its nuclear requalification in October, after an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 3800 Code survey and audit resulted in the audit team recommending renewal of its Quality System Certificate.
As a result of the three-yearly audit, SFIL aims to secure a higher level, ASME NPT (Nuclear Partials) accreditation, in early 2013, enabling the historic engineering marque to become the only UK producer of heavy forgings and castings to physically weld-fabricate such safety critical components to form the heart of a nuclear power plant. David Street, group quality director, at SFIL, said, “Forgemasters currently enjoys ASME status as a Materials Organisation. The programme to gain NPT status is a huge development with enhanced requirements and disciplines embracing all our processes, employees and sub suppliers. This is to ensure we meet the exacting construction requirements of the ASME code, which are some of the most stringent demands in modern engineering.” SFIL, which is a crucial supplier to the UK defence industry, can currently supply ‘material’ for use in civil nuclear applications but it cannot carry out further weld construction activities on these materials as will be allowed by NPT Certification status. Once SFIL secures NPT status, it will sit with one of its key customers, Rolls Royce, as one of the only UK companies qualified for main component fabrication within a civil nuclear power plant. David added: “Renewing our existing ASME Qualified Systems Certificate accreditation is crucial in facilitating the steps to gain ASME NQA-1 quality assurance, which is a higher level of accreditation, allowing construction of civil nuclear components.
“This then opens up significant possibilities for the UK’s own nuclear new-build programme and taps into a growing need for nuclear power to solve the world’s looming energy crisis.” “The ASME code is the most comprehensive series of guidelines for civil nuclear manufacture in the world and all other codes, including the French RCC-M code, operate to similar compliance requirements.
“The implications of the codes are vast for any company wishing to enter the UK civil nuclear supply chain with precise requirements which need comprehensive understanding to ensure compliance and avoid code violation. Businesses will need to understand how to engage with this process and at the moment, very few UK companies do.” SFIL has an unparalleled understanding of the ASME code within the UK and through its role as a tier one member of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), is poised to play a crucial part in establishing quality assurance requirements for businesses aiming to enter the UK civil nuclear supply chain. David added: “The code is an absolute requirement with no scope for concessions. Manufacture must be ASME code compliant to avoid non-acceptance and rejection. That’s where our involvement with the NAMRC should enable our expertise in this field to reach a much broader market.” Forgemasters initially gained ASME accreditation as a Nuclear Materials Organisation in 1992, and since then, has been subject to unannounced audits annually and a full quality systems survey every three years.
SFIL will now continue its work on manufacturing major nuclear island forging components for the UK’s nuclear submarine programme and projects for civil nuclear power plants as far away as China.
David Street is supported by a team of seven and will have the new ASME programme ready for external audit by March 2013 with an anticipated investment of £140k to maintain the existing accreditation and enhance the quality programme to include the higher level NPT accreditation. SFIL recently announced the launch of Sheffield Forgemasters RD26 Ltd – its seventh subsidiary, to market its trade-mark high-technology design services to the broader engineering sector.