Failure of Welded Helium Tanks
Two tanks made of AISI type 304 stainless steel exhibited cracking in the heat-affected zone (HAZ) of the weld that joined the dished end and the shell. The dished ends had been produced by cold deformation. Hardness measurement and simulation tests showed that the deformation was equivalent to a 30% reduction in thickness. Residual stresses were measured at about 135 MPa (20 ksi). The HAZ was found to be sensitized. The tanks had been stored in a coastal atmosphere for about 4 years before installation. The failure was attributed to intergranular stress-corrosion cracking in a sensitized HAZ due to chloride from the environment. Use of low-carbon type AISI 304L was recommended. Minimization of fit-up stresses and covering with polyethylene sheets during storage were also suggested.