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Several 304H stainless steel superheater tubes fractured in stressed areas within hours of a severe caustic upset in the boiler feedwater system. Tests performed on a longitudinal weld joint, which connected two adjacent tubes in the tertiary superheater bank, confirmed caustic-induced stress-corrosion cracking, promoted by the presence of residual welding stresses. Improved maintenance of check valves and routine inspection of critical monitoring systems (conductivity alarms, sodium analyzers, etc.) were recommended to help avoid future occurrences of severe boiler feedwater contamination. Additional recommendations were to eliminate these short longitudinal weld joints by using a bracket assembly joint between the tubes, use a post-weld heat treatment to relieve residual welding stress or select a more stress-corrosion cracking resistant alloy for this particular application.

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Mel J. Esmacher, Stress-Corrosion Cracking of Stainless Steel Superheater Tubing, Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, Vol 2, Edited By Khlefa A. Esaklul, ASM International, 1993, p 227–229,

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