TRITIUM AGING EFFECTS ON THE FRACTURE TOUGHNESS PROPERTIES OF STAINLESS STEEL BASE METAL AND WELDS

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Tritium reservoirs are constructed from welded stainless steel forgings. While these steels are highly resistant to the embrittling effects of hydrogen isotopes and helium from tritium decay; they are not immune. Tritium embrittlement is an enhanced form of hydrogen embrittlement because of the presence of helium-3 from tritium decay which nucleates as nanometer-sized bubbles on dislocations, grain boundaries, and other microstructural defects. Steels with decay helium bubble microstructures are hardened and less able to deform plastically and become more susceptible to embrittlement by hydrogen and its isotopes. Ductility, elongation-to-failure, and fracture toughness are reduced by exposures to tritium and the ... continued below

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Morgan, M. July 30, 2009.

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Tritium reservoirs are constructed from welded stainless steel forgings. While these steels are highly resistant to the embrittling effects of hydrogen isotopes and helium from tritium decay; they are not immune. Tritium embrittlement is an enhanced form of hydrogen embrittlement because of the presence of helium-3 from tritium decay which nucleates as nanometer-sized bubbles on dislocations, grain boundaries, and other microstructural defects. Steels with decay helium bubble microstructures are hardened and less able to deform plastically and become more susceptible to embrittlement by hydrogen and its isotopes. Ductility, elongation-to-failure, and fracture toughness are reduced by exposures to tritium and the reductions increase with time as helium-3 builds into the material from tritium permeation and radioactive decay. Material and forging specifications have been developed for optimal material compatibility with tritium. These specifications cover composition, mechanical properties, and select microstructural characteristics like grain size, flow-line orientation, inclusion content, and ferrite distribution. For many years, the forming process of choice for reservoir manufacturing was high-energy-rate forging (HERF), principally because the DOE forging facility owned only HERF hammers. Today, some reservoir forgings are being made that use a conventional, more common process known as press forging (PF or CF). One of the chief differences between the two forging processes is strain rate: Conventional hydraulic or mechanical forging presses deform the metal at 4-8 ft/s, about ten-fold slower than the HERF process. The material specifications continue to provide successful stockpile performance by ensuring that the two forging processes produce similar reservoir microstructures. While long-term life storage tests have demonstrated the general tritium compatibility of tritium reservoirs, fracture-toughness properties of both conventionally forged and high-energy-rate forged are needed for designing and establishing longer tritium-reservoir lifetimes, ranking materials, and, potentially, for qualifying new forging vendors or processes. Measurements on the effects of tritium and decay helium on the fracture toughness properties of CF stainless steels having similar composition, grain size, and mechanical properties to previously studied HERF steels are needed and have not been conducted until now. The compatibility of stainless steel welds with tritium represents another concern for long-term reservoir performance. Weldments have not been well-characterized with respect to tritium embrittlement, although a recent study was completed on the effect of tritium and decay helium on the fracture toughness properties of Type 304L weldments. This study expands the characterization of weldments through measurements of tritium and decay helium effects on the fracture toughness properties of Type 21-6-9 stainless steel. The purpose of this study was to measure and compare the fracture toughness properties of Type 21-6-9 stainless steel for conventional forgings and weldments in the non-charged, hydrogen-charged and tritium-charged-and-aged conditions.

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  • 28th Compatibility, Aging and Stockpile Stewardship Conference

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  • Report No.: SRNL-STI-2009-00475
  • Grant Number: DE-AC09-08SR22470
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 962427
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc932796

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  • July 30, 2009

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  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2016, 1:40 p.m.

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Morgan, M. TRITIUM AGING EFFECTS ON THE FRACTURE TOUGHNESS PROPERTIES OF STAINLESS STEEL BASE METAL AND WELDS, article, July 30, 2009; South Carolina. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc932796/: accessed October 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.