AISI 304 and 316 stainless steels of two purity levels that have been irradiated with high energy protons up to 0.3 dpa and neutrons in a high flux reactor up to 7.5 dpa were investigated in terms of irradiation induced mechanical properties and microstructural changes. The stress-strain relationships were obtained at room temperature. The deformation, grain, twinning and irradiation defect microstructures were investigated using both transmission and scanning electron microscopy. The results are discussed in terms of deformation mechanisms linked with the radiation induced defect microstructure. (C) 2000 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.