Abstract

Forged stainless steels are commonly used for the containment of hydrogen isotopes and fracture toughness properties are needed for structural integrity assessments. In this study, the effects of hydrogen and tritium precharging on the fracture-toughness properties of Types 316L and 304L stainless steel forgings were measured. The purpose of the study was to evaluate hydrogen and tritium effects on fracture toughness properties of: (1) Type 316 stainless steel stem-shaped and cup shaped forgings; and (2) Type 304L cylindrical block forgings with two different yield strengths. Arc-shaped fracture toughness specimens were cut from the forgings and precharged by exposing the specimens to hydrogen or tritium gas at 623K and 34.5 MPa. Tritium precharged specimens were aged at 193 K for 45 months prior to testing to build-in helium-3 from tritium decay. In the as-received condition, the J-Integral fracture toughness of the stem, cup, and block forgings were very high and exceeded 1200 kJ/m2 on average. The fracture toughness of specimens cut from the low yield strength Type 304L stainless steel block forging had the highest fracture toughness values and Type 316L stainless steel cup forging had the lowest. The reduced fracture toughness values were attributed to the large strain required to produce the cup forging and its high yield strength. Hydrogen precharging reduced the fracture toughness of the stem, cup, and block forgings to values between 34%–51% of a baseline value which was taken to be the fracture toughness value of the low yield strength block forging. Tritium precharging reduced the fracture-toughness values more than hydrogen precharging because of the effects of helium from radioactive decay of tritium. The fracture-toughness properties of tritium-precharged forgings ranged from 12% to 23% of the baseline values. In general, Type 316L stainless steel was more resistant to toughness reductions by hydrogen or tritium (and decay helium) than Type 304L stainless steel. Yield strength had only minor effects on fracture toughness for the precharged steels.

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