Irradiation-Assisted Stress Corrosion Cracking of Austenitic Stainless Steels in BWR Environments (NUREG/CR-7018)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: February 2009
Date Published: June 2010

Prepared by:
Y. Chen, O.K. Chopra, E.E. Gruber and W.J. Shack

Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Avenue
Argonne, IL 60439

A.S. Rao, NRC Project Manager

NRC Job Code N6519

Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington DC 20555-0001

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The internal components of light water reactors are exposed to high-energy neutron irradiation and high-temperature reactor coolant. The exposure to neutron irradiation increases the susceptibility of austenitic stainless steels (SSs) to stress corrosion cracking (SCC) because of the elevated corrosion potential of the reactor coolant and the introduction of new embrittlement mechanisms through radiation damage. Various nonsensitized SSs and nickel alloys have been found to be prone to intergranular cracking after extended neutron exposure. Such cracks have been seen in a number of internal components in boiling water reactors (BWRs). The elevated susceptibility to SCC in irradiated materials, commonly referred to as irradiation-assisted stress corrosion cracking (IASCC), is a complex phenomenon that involves simultaneous actions of irradiation, stress, and corrosion. In recent years, as nuclear power plants have aged and irradiation dose increased, IASCC has become an increasingly important issue. Post-irradiation crack growth rate and fracture toughness tests have been performed to provide data and technical support for the NRC to address various issues related to aging degradation of reactor-core internal structures and components. This report summarizes the results of the last group of tests on compact tension specimens from the Halden-II irradiation. The IASCC susceptibility of austenitic SSs and heat-affected-zone (HAZ) materials sectioned from submerged arc and shielded metal arc welds was evaluated by conducting crack growth rate and fracture toughness tests in a simulated BWR environment. The fracture and cracking behavior of HAZ materials, thermally sensitized SSs and grain-boundary engineered SSs was investigated at several doses (≤3 dpa). These latest results were combined with previous results from Halden-I and II irradiations to analyze the effects of neutron dose, water chemistry, alloy compositions, and welding and processing conditions on IASCC. The effect of neutron irradiation on the fracture toughness of austenitic SSs was also evaluated at dose levels relevant to BWR internals.

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