Business secretary Lord Mandelson says the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters to build a 15,000 tonne press and finishing workshop will help the UK become a world leader in building next generation nuclear reactors.

He said: “This is not just help for one company. Today we’re announcing a willingness to invest that will make the UK a leading provider in the nuclear and the low carbon supply chain.

“Our high value manufacturing, knowledge base and highly skilled workforce mean with the right investment, like today’s, the UK can win a huge amount of business in this growth sector.”

Government and private sector money will total £140 million for the new equipment, it was announced last Wednesday (March 17).

It will make the company one of the few in the world able to make ultra large forgings for the civil nuclear power industry.

Currently, these are only produced in Japan for the global market.

The government says the new press and finishing facility will also create some 180 jobs and thousands more long term as global nuclear reactor design companies increasingly buy components from the UK.

Graham Honeyman, Sheffield Forgemasters chief executive, said: “This is a massive coup for UK manufacturing and firmly underpins the country’s place at the leading edge of engineering technology.”

However, Irish Green party politician Mark Dearey has called for a debate over plans to build a string of next generation nuclear power stations along Britain’s west coast amid concerns over possible design faults.

Senator Dearey, speaking in the Irish parliament called for a house debate and investigation by the nuclear safety watchdog the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate into ‘the assertion that this reactor design is fundamentally unsafe’.

The minister spoke after French anti-nuclear campaigners claimed to have unearthed confidential documents leaked by an insider at French electricity company EDF showing tests on third-generation reactors show defects that could lead to ‘Chernobyl-type accident’.

But EDF, which is among companies wanting to build the next generation of British reactors, says the documents are part of the risk analysis applied to all reactors and “no conclusion can be drawn from them at the moment.”

David Gibbs

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