Several mercury diffusion pump stages in the Tritium Purification process at the Savannah River Site (SRS) have been removed from service for scheduled preventive maintenance. These stages have been examined to determine if failure has occurred. Evidence of fatigue around the flange portion of the pump has been seen. In addition, erosion and cavitation inside the throat of the venturi tube and corrosion on the other surface of the venturi tube has been observed. Several measures are being examined in an attempt to improve the performance of these pumps. These measures, as well as the noted observations, are described. Six stages [two machined (MP) and four electron beam (EB) welded] from the mercury diffusion pumps operating in the Tritium Purification process at SRS have been analyzed to determine their condition after nine months of usage. Several cracks were found around the necked region of the two MP stages. The EB welded stages, however, seemed to perform better in service; only two of four stages showed cracking. The cracking is caused by fatigue that has been enhanced by high stresses and tritium in the flange area. The EB welded stage appears to be a step in the right direction. Since the EB weld is a shrink fit, the surface is in compression, thereby eliminating crack propagation. In addition, shot peening has been employed to produce a compressive material surface since fatigue usually originates at the surface. Pitting was observed down the throat of the venturi. This pitting was caused by cavitation and erosion along the length of the venturi tube. Corrosion and pitting was seen on the exterior walls of the diffuser tubes. Stress-corrosion cracks were observed emanating from these corrosion pits. The corrosion likely occurred from the chloride ions present in the process cooling water. Shot peening is now being used in an attempt to place the outside of the diffuser tube in compression to eliminate the stress-corrosion cracking.
Kerry A. Dunn, Analysis of Mercury Diffusion Pumps, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Power Generating Equipment, ASM International, 2019, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.fach.power.c9001679
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