Fracture: Intergranular Fracture
A main steam pipe was found to be leaking due to a large circumferential crack in a pipe-to-fitting weld in one of two steam leads between the superheater outlet nozzles and the turbine stop valves (a line made of SA335-P22 material). The main crack surface was found to be rough, oriented about normal to the outside surface, and had a dark oxidized appearance. The cracking was found to be predominantly intergranular. Distinct shiny bands that etched slower than the remainder of the sample at the top of each individual weld bead were revealed by microscopic examination. These bands were found contain small cracks and microvoids. A mechanism of intergranular creep rupture at elevated temperature was identified as a result of a series of stress-rupture and tensile tests. It was revealed by the crack shape that cracking initiated on the pipe exterior, then propagated inward and in the circumferential direction in response to a bending moment load. It was concluded that the primary cause of failure was the occurrence of bending stresses that exceeded the stress levels predicted by design calculations and that were higher than the maximum allowable primary membrane stress.