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Title: The effect of cold rolling on the susceptibility of austenitic stainless steel to stress corrosion cracking in primary circuit pressurised water reactor environment
Author: Wright, David Marc
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 860X
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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The stress corrosion cracking (SCC) of components which are fabricated from austenitic stainless steel has been observed in the primary circuit of pressurised water reactors (PWR). In recent years it has become an increasing concern that cold work can induce susceptibility to SCC in these materials, even when exposed to good-quality flowing coolant. Laboratory studies which were launched in response to this observation have confirmed that SCC susceptibility is enhanced by cold work. The intention of this study is therefore to investigate the link between the effects of cold work on the material and the susceptibility to SCC. The investigation has been conducted on a grade 304 austenitic stainless steel. Characterisation of the microstructure and mechanical properties has been carried out in the annealed condition, and following cold rolling to a reduction in thickness of 20 %. The cold rolled material has then been subjected to SCC tests in simulated PWR primary circuit coolant. Two types of test were utilised: slow strain rate tests (SSRTs) were carried out in order to investigate the initiation of cracks from a smooth surface and constant load tests using pre-cracked specimens were used to investigate the crack propagation behaviour. In both types of test the SCC produced was predominantly intergranular. The SSRTs revealed that the most susceptible grain boundaries separated grains which had dissimilar deformation microstructures (one grain deformed heavily by planar bands, the other more homogenously). It was also observed that initiation could occur on a grain boundary which is adjacent to an annealing twin. In both microstructural configurations the susceptibility is likely to be due to the deformation incompatibility across the failed boundary, possible indicating that shear at the boundary is important for the initiation of cracking. The crack propagation behaviour of the rolled material was particularly anisotropic; regardless of the loading direction (specimens were manufactured to allow loading along the rolling, transverse and normal plate directions) cracking was observed to occur parallel to the rolling-transverse plane. The origin of this behaviour was explored in terms of preferential alignment of the deformation microstructure and the anisotropic mechanical properties of the rolled plate. Limited transgranular cracking was also observed, which occurred along oxidised deformation bands. The results overall indicate that heterogeneous deformation between different regions of the material, and preferential alignment of the deformation microstructure are important with respect to the SCC susceptibility of the rolled material.
Supervisor: Quinta Da fonseca, Joao Sponsor: Serco Technical Services (now AMEC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Eng.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: SCC ; Austenitic stainless steel ; Cold work ; PWR