Radiation-Induced Swelling of Stainless Steel

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Science  10 Sep 1971:
Vol. 173, Issue 4001, pp. 987-991
DOI: 10.1126/science.173.4001.987


Significant swelling (1 to 10 percent due to small voids have been found in stainless steel when it is exposed to fast neutron doses less than expected in commercial fast breeder reactors. The main features of this new effect are: (i) the voids are formed by the precipitation of a small fraction of the radiation-produced vacancies; (ii) the voids form primarily in the temperature range 400° to 600°C (750° to 1100°F); and (iii) the volume increases with dose (fluence) at a rate between linear and parabolic. The limited temperature range of void formation can be explained, but the effects of fluence, microstructure, and composition are determined by a competition between several kinetic processes that are not well understood. This swelling does not affect the feasibility or safety of the breeder reactor,but will have a significant impact on the core design and economics of the breeder.Preliminary results indicate that one cannot eliminate the effect,but cold-working,heat treatment, or small changes in composition can reduce the swelling by a factor of 2 or more. Testing is hampered by the fact that several years in EBR-II are required to accumulate the fluence expected in demonstration plants. Heavyion accelerators,which allow damage rates corresponding to much higher fluxes than those found in EBR-II,hold great promise for short-term tests that will indicate the relative effect of the important variables.