Mechanical properties-micro structure correlation in neutron irradiated heat-affected zones of austenitic stainless steels
The effects of neutron irradiation on austenitic stainless steels, usually used for the manufacturing of internal elements of nuclear reactors (e.g. the core shrouds), are the alteration of the microstructure, and, as a consequence, of the mechanical properties. The present study is aimed at extending knowledge upon the impact of neutron-irradiation on the heat-affected zone of welded materials, which was influenced by the thermal cycles upon fusion welding. An austenitic stainless steel weld type AISI 304 from a decommissioned experimental pressurised water reactor has been used in the present study. The welded material has been irradiated during 11 reactor cycles to a maximum dpa dose of 0.35 and a temperature of around 573 K. The mechanical properties and microstructure are determined on specimens from heat-affected zone and base materials, with different dose levels. The mechanical properties were determined by performing tensile tests on small flat specimens at two deformation temperatures: room temperature and about 573 K. The characterisation of the microstructure was made by transmission electron microscopy. The correlation between mechanical properties and microstruclure after neutron irradiation is made using the dispersed obstacle hardening model. It was found that the measured radiation hardening cannot be explained solely by the presence of the irradiation-induced defects observed in TEM. Smaller irradiation-induced features not resolvable in TEM may also contribute to radiation hardening. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.