Stress-Corrosion Cracking of a Nuclear Steam-Generator Vessel at Low Concentrations of Chloride Ion
A nuclear steam-generator vessel constructed of 100-mm thick SA302, grade B, steel was found to have a small leak. The leak originated in the circumferential closure weld joining the transition cone to the upper shell. The welds had been fabricated from the outside by the submerged arc process with a backing strip. The backing was back gouged off, and the weld was completed from the inside with E8018-C3 electrodes by the shielded metal arc process. Striations of the type normally associated with progressive or fatigue-type failures including beach marks that allowed tracing the origin of the fracture to the pits on the inner surface of the vessel were revealed. Copper deposits with zinc were revealed by EDS examination of discolorations. Pitting was revealed to have been caused by poor oxygen control in the steam generators and release of chloride into the steam generators. It was concluded by series of controlled crack-propagation-rate stress-corrosion tests that A302, grade B, steel was susceptible to transgranular stress-corrosion attack in constant extension rate testing with as low as 1 ppm chloride present. It was recommended to maintain the coolant environment low in oxygen and chloride. Copper ions in solution should be eliminated or minimized.