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The secondary cooling water system pressure boundary of Savannah River Site reactors includes expansion joints utilizing a thin-wall bellows. While successfully used for over thirty years, an occasional replacement has been required because of the development of small, circumferential fatigue cracks in a bellows convolute. One such crack was recently shown to have initiated from a weld heat-affected zone liquation microcrack. The crack, initially open to the outer surface of the rolled and seam welded cylindrical bellows section, was closed when cold forming of the convolutes placed the outer surface in residual compression. However, the bellows was placed in tension when installed, and the tensile stresses reopened the microcrack. This five to eight grain diameter microcrack was extended by ductile fatigue processes. Initial extension was by relatively rapid propagation through the large-grained weld metal, followed by slower extension through the fine-grained base metal. A significant through-wall crack was not developed until the crack extended into the base metal on both sides of the weld. Leakage of cooling water was subsequently detected and the bellows removed and a replacement installed.

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S. L. West, D. Z. Nelson, M. R. Louthan, Jr., Reactor Cooling Water Expansion Joint Bellows: The Role of the Seam Weld in Fatigue Crack Development, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Power Generating Equipment, ASM International, 2019,

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