£10m nuclear manufacturing project “road-tests” electron beam welding technology Ebflow

£10m nuclear manufacturing project “road-tests” electron beam welding technology Ebflow

The first-ever application of electron beam welding (EBW) technology in a UK nuclear industry project is underway using Cambridge engineering firm CVE’s Ebflow system.

With £10m funding from the UK Government, the project’s aim is to test the capability of EBW to replace existing welding techniques in civil nuclear power manufacturing.

Ebflow, a local vacuum EBW system, is designed for use on site in large industrial manufacturing without the need for a vacuum chamber.

Bob Nicolson, CVE’s managing director, said: “The Ebflow technology simplifies thick section welding when producing large structures and components, such as those found in nuclear power plants. The technology makes this possible by using a mobile, coarse vacuum which removes the need for a vacuum chamber on site – which avoids the prohibitive cost of creating vacuum chambers large enough to accommodate the size of nuclear energy structures.

“We are confident that this latest project will demonstrate how the technology can transform fabrication in heavy engineering – whether that’s in nuclear, wind farms, oil and gas or civil engineering.”

Existing tests of the Ebflow system showed results between 20 and 30 times faster than traditional arc welding techniques, therefore improving productivity, using less power and reducing the overall carbon footprint of the manufacturing process.

The nuclear manufacturing project – led by UK steel and engineering company Sheffield Forgemasters – will involve the installation of an electron beam welder able to weld 3.0m diameter cylinders as an integral part of the manufacturing process. In addition, it will be used to produce a small, modular reactor pressure vessel plus steel alloys designed for nuclear power fission.

Jesus Talamantes-Silva – research, design and technology director at Sheffield Forgemasters – said: “Although EBW exists elsewhere, it is used on a smaller scale than the 200mm welds we will conduct. We aim to demonstrate how EBW can improve material characteristics over traditional welding…and how this technology can integrate at manufacture to improve component weld properties at a later stage.”

“Using EBW over traditional welding techniques, circumferential welding of pressure vessels can be reduced from approximately 150 days to 10 days and we will be able to produce safer, stronger components for the next generation of nuclear power, with lower costs and vastly reduced production times.”

Bob Nicolson added: “The demand for thick section steel structures in the power industry is likely to increase in the coming years. However, the current amount of ‘arc-on’ welding time needed to produce a 100 metre monopile 100mm thick is more than six thousand hours. Ebflow can reduce the equivalent welding time to less than 200 hours – an 85% cost reduction.”

Alongside CVE and Sheffield Forgemasters, the EBW welding project consortium of organisations also includes TWI, Arc Energy, NAMRC, the University of Manchester and Cambridge University, plus a steering committee comprising Rolls Royce Civil Nuclear, Rolls Royce Submarines, Cavendish Nuclear, the MOD and the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

For more information on Ebflow, please visit https://www.camvaceng.com/ebflow/