The effects of 107 MeV Kr-84(17+) ion irradiation on YBa2Cu3O7-x-based second-generation coated conductors were investigated using a combination of transmission electron microscopy, diffraction and X-ray energy dispersive spectrometry. Defects 3-5 nm in diameter formed due to irradiation with relatively low fluences (similar to 2 x 10(10) and similar to 6 x 10(10) cm(-2)). Analysis of electron microscopy images and spectrometry data led to the conclusion that radiation defects are voids approximately 3 nm in diameter. Heavy ion irradiation results in the significant enhancement of YBCO/buffer oxides adhesion to the Hastelloy substrate, the reduction of stresses and the formation of a crack-free structure in the YBCO layer. The use of low-dose irradiation enables the critical current to be increased without lowering the transition temperature. (C) 2014 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.