Failure of a Stainless Steel Tank Used for Storage of Heavy Water/Helium
The dished ends of a heavy water/helium storage tank manufactured from 8 mm (0.3 in.) thick type 304 stainless plate leaked during hydrotesting. Repeated attempts at repair welding did not alleviate the problem. Examination of samples from one dished end revealed that the cracking was confined to the heat affected zone (HAZ) surrounding circumferential welds and, to a lesser extent, radial welds that were part of the original construction. Most of the cracks initiated and propagated from the inside surface of the dished ends. Microstructures of the base metal, HAZ, and weld metal indicated severe sensitization in the HAZ due to high heat input during welding. An intergranular corrosion test confirmed the observations. The severe sensitization was coupled with residual stresses and exposure of the assembly to a coastal atmosphere during storage prior to installation. This combination of factors resulted in failure by stress-corrosion cracking. Implementation of a new repair procedure was recommended. Repairs were successfully made using the new procedure, and all cracks in the weld repair zones were eliminated.