Lehigh Heavy Forge Corporation will supply The Babcock & Wilcox Co. with forgings for its B&W mPower™ small modular reactor (SMR), following a new agreement. Various terms of the deal remain undetailed, but the Pennsylvania open-die forging company indicated it would join with Babcock & Wilcox to fabricate and qualify large forgings for nuclear reactor components, which the parties intend to incorporate into its mPower SMR.
According to Lehigh Valley Forge vice president of marketing and sales Allan Robertson, the initial orders for the project could be underway within a year.
Babcock & Wilcox designs, builds, and supplies management services for nuclear power plants, and the mPower SMR is a version of the B&W mPower reactor design, a light-water reactor that it describes as “scalable, modular, (and) passively safe.”
The engineering group recently earned the U.S. Department of Energy’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support Program, and the funding B&W that will follow that recognition will support the development of its B&W mPower reactor technology.
The B&W mPower reactor reportedly has a four-year operating cycle without needing refueling, for what the developer calls “clean, zero-emission operations.” It stated the reactor is designed to minimize the risks of adopting and operating nuclear power plants, and to match the large or small generating requirements of a power supplier. Generating requirements would be added in increments of 180 MWe, to match the operators’ load. Reactor modules would be installed according to the customers’ needs and/or infrastructure constraints.
Babcock & Wilcox also noted that each B&W mPower reactor would contribute to the reduction of approximately 57 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the unit, compared to emissions from other forms of energy generation.
Lehigh Heavy Forge, Bethlehem, PA, operates a 10,000-ton open-die press, reportedly the largest in North America, and capable of processing steel (carbon, alloy, and stainless) ingots up to 130-in. diameter.
In the B&W arrangement, the forger would manufacture prototypes and standard products for B&W as it begins to produce components for its reactors. In their joint statement, Lehigh and B&W reported they would be collaborating to improve the U.S. infrastructure for supplying heavy forgings for commercial nuclear power projects. The suspension of such projects over recent decades has left a gap in the market for capable suppliers of forgings needed to build and repair reactors.
“As we move forward with plans to deploy the B&W mPower reactor, one of our commitments is to use U.S.-based suppliers,” Christofer M. Mowry, Babcock & Wilcox mPower Inc. president, stated.
Development and accreditation
Robertson explained to FORGING that the producer would be forging shells, domes and discs, some of which will have various contours. “The concept is for B&W mPower to be able to fabricate the units in a factory setting and ship them to the site,” he noted. “That dictates the size of the components.”
In the course of manufacturing the prototype forgings, Lehigh Heavy Forge will seek a Material Organization Quality System accreditation with ASME for future heavy component manufacturing. Robertson explained that accreditation would be completed as the first parts are being processed.
Also, Lehigh Heavy Forge has plans to make some plant improvements to support future B&W mPower reactor manufacturing needs. The details and cost of those improvements were not revealed.
“We have been making significant capital investments in our facilities as we get ready for what we believe will be a strong push for small modular reactor heavy components,” stated James J. Romeo, Lehigh Heavy Forge president. “We look forward to using our unique capabilities and demonstrated experience to be a significant contributor to the B&W mPower reactor’s successful deployment.”