Sheffield Forgemasters has ruled out a new bid for government funds to help it fulfil its nuclear ambitions.
The Brightside Lane company hit the headlines after the coalition government axed the Labour government’s offer of an £80 million loan towards a new 15,000-tonne press.
The press would have made Forgemasters one of only two companies in the world capable of making the giant forgings at the heart of a nuclear power station.
The cancellation put Deputy PM and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg at the centre of storm of criticism which became worse after he wrongly accused Forgemasters’ management of being unwilling to dilute their stake in the business in order to raise funds.
Mr Clegg has encouraged Forgemasters to apply for cash from the government’s new Regional Growth Fund.
But Forgemasters’ chief executive Dr Graham Honeyman today ruled that out because of changes in the economic climate and prospects in the nuclear industry as well as the short time scale.
Dr Honeyman said: “Our original proposal was initiated three years ago and so considerable reworking needs to be completed for us to submit a reviewed proposal offering workable solutions.
“This requires sufficient time to cover all relevant issues including supply, market demand, updated hardware costs, availability and consideration of the UK’s own development of a civil nuclear power programme.
“We cannot be held to the Regional Growth Fund deadlines on this project. The June bid deadline is not relevant to this situation.”
Dr Honeyman said Forgemasters had not given up installing the giant press but the economics of the project had now changed substantially.
New competitors were entering the market, the number of equipment suppliers had declined due to the recession and there was uncertainty over the UK government’s own nuclear strategy which needed to be cleared up.
Forgemasters has now intensified pioneering new forging techniques using its 10,000- tonne press which have not been achieved anywhere else and have significant implications for the nuclear and other power generation markets. But it still sees potential for a larger press.
“The addition of a 15,000- tonne press could only add to our scale of development and delivery and hence why we are still keen to pursue all options to make this happen,” said Dr Honeyman.
“This project is in the interest of the nation. There could be a serious energy crisis in the latter part of this decade if we do not consider alternatives.”