Damage to steels from neutron irradiation affects the properties of steels and is an important factor in the design of safe and economical components for fission and fusion reactors. This article discusses the effects of high-energy neutrons on steels. The effects of damage caused by neutron irradiation include swelling (volume increase), irradiation hardening, and irradiation embrittlement (the influence of irradiation hardening on fracture toughness). These effects are primarily associated with high-energy (greater than 0.1 MeV) neutrons. Consequently, irradiation damage from neutrons is of considerable importance in fast reactors, which produce a significant flux of high-energy neutrons during operation. Irradiation embrittlement must also be considered in the development of ferritic steels for fast reactors and fusion reactors. Although ferritic steels are more resistant to swelling than austenitic steels, irradiation may have a more critical effect on the mechanical properties of ferritic steels.
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