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Pressure testing of a batch of AISI type 316L stainless steel thermowells intended for use in a nuclear power-plant resulted in the identification of leakage at the tips in 20% of the parts. Radiography at the tip region of representative thermowells showed linear indications along the axes. SEM examination revealed the presence of longitudinally oriented nonmetallic inclusions that were partly retained and partly dislodged. Electron-dispersive x-ray analysis indicated that the inclusions were composed of CaO. Based on the overall chemistry of the inclusion sites, the source of the CaO was determined to be slag entrapment during the steel making process. It was recommended that the thermowell blanks be ultrasonically tested prior to machining and that the design be modified to make internal pressurization possible.

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