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The Effect of Helium on Welding Irradiated Materials

A nuclear reactorʼs inner components are exposed to neutron fluxes, resulting in the transmutation of minor elements that generate helium in the materialʼs matrix, but weld cracking can be suppressed by using a few techniques

Energetic neutron irradiation and associated transmutation reactions are known to cause significant damage to materials. The resultant deterioration in the mechanical properties and corrosion resistance plays a decisive role in the life expectancy of nuclear reactor components. With the first generation of nuclear power plants reaching their life expectancy, the repair and replacement of degraded reactor components will be required. Hence, joining using conventional welding techniques will be needed. However, during welding of irradiated materials, a major difficulty must be overcome. Helium generated in the material from transmutation reactions is almost insoluble in a solid matrix. Under the high temperatures and high thermal stresses generated during welding, helium bubbles will grow and coalesce along the grain boundaries. This will cause intergranular cracking and fracture of the components during welding repair. This article reviews the investigations that have occurred involving welding postirradiated materials over the last 25 years. The effect of helium on the weldability and postweld properties of the irradiated structural materials, such as stainless steels, is summarized. Theories that have been developed to describe the helium-induced cracking are discussed along with possible techniques to suppress cracking and improve the weldability of irradiated materials.

At the present time, there are 104 operating nuclear reactors in the United States with an average age of more than 30 years (Ref. 1). The Atomic Energy Act provides for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to issue licenses for 40 years of operation with provisions for renewal for an additional 20 years. License extensions have been applied for 72 reactors with 51 already granted (Ref. 2). Analysis of materials degradation is already in progress for anticipated operation of 80 years (Ref. 3). Exposure to energetic neutron irradiation produces significant damage in the microstructure of metallic materials (Ref. 4). This damage will result in a corresponding deterioration in mechanical properties of inner
S. LI (, Z. ZHANG, W. SHEN, and B. A. CHIN are with the Materials Research & Education Center, Auburn University, Auburn, Ala. ZHANG is also with the Engineering Research Center of Materials Behavior and Design, Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China. M. L. GROSSBECK is with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.

structural components of a nuclear reactor, limiting the useful life of these components (Ref. 5). For 60- and 80-year lifetimes, component failures due to cracking are a major consideration, especially in the light of cracking core internal components and control rod nozzles in plants after less than half this time (Ref. 6). Therefore, it is to be expected that the repair and replacement of degraded reactor components will be necessary. Such repair procedures are likely to require the use of a joining process such as fusion welding. As discussed further in this article, the production of helium by neutron interactions in structural alloys presents a major


B + n → 7Li + 4He Ni + n → 59Ni + γ Ni + n → 56Fe + 4He

(1) (2) (3)



Nuclear Reactor Helium Irradiated Heat-Affected Zone (HAZ) Weld Cracking Gas Metal Arc (GMA) Weld Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG) Laser Welding

Because helium is essentially insoluble in metal, the entrapped helium tends to precipitate as clusters and nanometer-scale bubbles even at relatively low temperatures (Refs. 7, 8). Preferred nucleation sites for helium bubbles are point defects, dislocations, and grain boundaries (GBs). At elevated temperatures, helium bubbles grow rapidly under the influence of both temperature and stress. The growth of GB helium bubbles will result in the weakening of the GB and intergranular fracture, leading to severe embrittlement in the materials (Refs. 9, 10). The degradation in mechanical properties, such as tensile strength, fatigue, and creep, due to the presence of entrapped helium in irradiated metal, has been studied by many reWELDING JOURNAL 19-s


obstacle to repair welding. Even at the inner wall of the pressure vessel at the midplane location, helium concentrations exceed permissible levels for normal arc welding in structural alloys after 40 years. At the top of the pressure vessel in pressurized water reactors (PWRs), the neutron flux is approximately a factor of 100 lower, permitting repair welds of structures such as control rod nozzles at a lifetime of 40 years, but the issue becomes more uncertain for an 80-year lifetime. Repair welds have been made in a vessel head with minimal exposure, but considering the severity of the problem and projected lifetime of modern reactor plants, most reactor operators have chosen vessel head replacement. This article addresses the potential and limitations of repair welding for neutron-irradiated materials. Helium in postirradiated material is primarily generated by (n, α) reactions of thermal neutrons and alloy constituents, principally with boron and nickel:

Even though welding of irradiated steels had been done as early as the 1970s (Refs. the helium contained in the steel wall was measured to be 3 atomic parts per million (appm). 1 — Cracking of as-GTA-welded Type 316 stainless steel with 2. The HAZ cracking was intergranular and attributed to helium embrittlement. and several techniques have been applied to suppress cracking and improve the weldability of irradiated materials. When the desired helium concentration is obtained. 29. Details of the helium-doping process can be found in several references (Refs. a wide range of helium concentrations can be obtained. 26). When the repair was performed.A B C to repair corrosion cracks on a Type 304 stainless steel nuclear reactor vessel at the Savannah River Site failed in 1986 (Ref. such as stainless steels. These HAZ cracks led to larger leaks in the reactor vessel and shutdown of the reactor (Ref. In their study. which will enhance the growth of helium bubbles and cause catastrophic heat-affected zone (HAZ) cracking in the welds.34-year half life. 18–21). Helium-bearing steels obtained by helium implantation have also been made and used in weldability investigations (Refs. in welds of a sample from the Savannah River R-reactor tank wall. 28). **Cold Work.0 7.0017 0. 24). Lin et al. which contained 30 appm helium after 12 years of reactor operation (Ref. and 256 appm were obtained by tritium charging and aging.0 2. kept at low temperature to keep tritium from diffusing out of the material. Gas tungsten arc welding was used on the plates of helium-doped steels. Over the past 25 years. In order to reduce the radiological hazard and avoid the difficulty of hot cell operation. and significant reductions in high-temperature ductility and fatigue life have been observed due to helium embrittlement (Refs. Patches were welded over the cracks on the wall using conventional GTA welding. systematically studied the helium effect on the weldability of 316 stainless steel (Refs. After tritium charging. 32). 2. ***Rapidly Solidified Processing. the excessive tritium is removed by placing the material in a vacuum vessel at a high temperature. In this technique.79 0. Metallographic examinations showed that specimens containing a very low helium concentration (0. 7.0 1. the severity of the helium embrittlement effect on the weldability of irradiated material was not fully realized until an attempt Materials used in the studies of irradiated materials’ weldability can be divided into two types: neutron-irradiated materials and helium-doped materials. helium is introduced into the material by diffusing tritium into the test material and allowing the tritium to decay to helium. thus stopping the further generation of helium. 11–16). and an examination after welding revealed extensive cracking in the HAZ of the patch welds.18. WELDING RESEARCH Helium-Doping Technique Fig.5. 11. 22). 23).18 appm) could be successfully welded with- searchers (Refs. Similar results were observed by Kanne et al. heliumdoped steels with helium concentrations of 0. the “tritium trick” allows the effect of helium to be isolated from other lattice damage due to neutron irradiation.5 2. the effect of helium on the weldability and postweld properties of the irradiated structural materials. Conventional gas tungsten arc (GTA) welding processes generate high temperature and internal thermal stresses. 29) Alloy He Concentration (atomic parts per million) 2. helium-bearing materials obtained using the “tritium trick” technique have been used to study the effect of helium on the weldability of irradiated materials (Ref.009 Tendency for Weld Cracking High Low Very Low None Very Low SA*316 SS 20%CW** 316 SS SA* PCA RSP*** 304 SS HT-9 *Solution Annealing (at 1050°C for 1 h in an inert atmosphere). the exposed materials are removed from the vessel. Weldability of He-Containing Materials The weldability of stainless steels using conventional welding processes is strongly affected by the presence of helium. has been investigated. 27. 30 days for instance. By changing the tritium charging pressure and aging time (decay time). Theories have been developed to describe helium-induced cracking in irradiated metallic materials during welding. fuse into the material. The dissolved tritium decays to form helium by the following reaction: 3H → β + 3He. The test specimens are placed in a tritium gas pressurized vessel at an elevated temperature (300°C) for a specified time.0 Crack Length (mm/mm) 0. 17). 105. 20-s JANUARY 2011. and the tritium is allowed to decay with its 12. 27. 22). 30). Although the microstructure of tritium charged and aged material does not completely represent the radiation damage in neutron irradiated materials.06 0. 25.0 0.5 appm helium (Ref. The specimens were fully constrained during the welding process to simulate the structural restraint encountered in practical repair and maintenance. 90 . VOl. to allow tritium to uniformly dif- Table 1 — Comparison of Helium-Induced Weld Cracking Tendency among Various Alloys (Ref. 25.

reported that welding caused a dramatic degradation in fatigue properties for neutron-irradiated Fe-16Cr-11Ni-3Mo-Ti austenitic steel (Ref. 2 — Schematic representation of helium bubble growth mechanism along GBs during welding (Ref. The cracks typically occurred in the HAZ within 1–3 grain diameters from the fusion boundary and were always parallel to the welding direction. All welded. catastrophic intergranular HAZ cracking occurred in the welds of 316 stainless steel containing helium concentrations of 2. Successful welding without the formation of weld defects can be obtained in stainless steels containing very low levels of helium.6 appm helium introduced by tritium charging and decay (Ref. The average dimple size was shown to be independent of the helium concentration. Above the threshold. By applying lower heat input and less restraint. estimated the threshold level for cracking in helium-doped 316 stainless steel during GTA welding to be approximately 1 appm (Refs. However. welding defects in irradiated materials varied from severe surface cracking. Videos of the welding process revealed that the cracking occurred approximately 1 s after the passage of the heat source. 29).2%. chemical composition. 43). the number of cycles to failure in low-cycle fatigue tests for the austenitic steels decreased by a factor of four to five following welding (Ref. with higher helium concentrations. sound GTA welding of neutron-irradiated steels containing helium up to 10 appm was accomplished (Refs. but rather by the interaction of multiple parameters. in the fusion zone. The GB facets of the HAZ fracture surface are fully decorated with uniformly distributed dimples about 1 µm in diameter. 29). In the fusion zone of the helium-doped 316 stainless steel welds. and strong shrinkage stresses. below which crack-free weld- ments can be made. to subsurface cracking. 37. It is found that intergranular HAZ cracking occurred along prior-austenite grain boundaries in ferritic Sandvik HT-9 steel (12Cr-1MoVW) doped with 1 appm He (Refs. 45–48). Such a situation would impose a severe risk for weld-repaired nuclear reactor components under opera- Fig. Conventional stringer bead GTA welding results in high heat input. A linear relationship between the extent of weld cracking and helium concentration was observed (Ref. resulting in a reduction of the contiguous grain boundary area. 29. For the specimens with higher helium concentrations. 34. which indicates the existence of a helium threshold. The results revealed that welded helium-bearing specimens suffered severe degradation in ultimate tensile strength and ductility. the extent of cracking increased with an increase in helium concentration. Table 1 lists a comparison for several alloys that describes the GTA weld cracking tendency (Ref. The loss of ductility of the welded helium-containing specimens is attributed to the growth of grain boundary helium bubbles. These observations indicated that high temperature alone is not sufficient to cause cracking. deep penetration. and to helium bubble formation along GBs (Ref. and weld constraint. Degradation in weldability and mechanical properties due to helium embrittlement has been observed in welds of different helium-doped and neutronirradiated steels and other alloys (Refs. Based on this relationship. interdendritic cracking in the fusion zone was observed in the welds in addition to HAZ cracking. spherical pores due to the coalescence of helium bubbles were found to decorate the solidification dendrite boundaries. the tendency of weld cracking for different irradiated alloys is also affected by their microstructure. 25). 32). 42). V-15Cr-5Ti. and is controlled by the combination of high temperature and stress during the welding process. Shrinkage-introduced tensile stresses play an important role in the helium bubble growth during the welding process. The weldability is primarily affected by the combination of helium concentration and welding conditions such as heat input. 27. Figure 1 shows HAZ cracking in 316 stainless steel doped with 2. 33–40). Fabritsiev et al. no cracking was observed in any aged specimens. 41). Techniques that inhibit the formation and growth of helium bubbles along GBs improve the weldability of helium-bearing alloys. Wang et al. 44). HAZ cracking showed similar morphology. tensile tests as a function of temperature were performed on both unwelded and welded helium-doped 316 stainless steel specimens containing different levels of helium (0. while rapidly solidified processed 304 stainless steel exhibits the best resistance. and 105 appm) (Ref. with 25. Severe fusion and HAZ cracking were also reported by Lin and Braski in the vanadium alloy. such as elevated temperature and fatigue loading. Even at a helium concentration of 1 appm. which indicate that the fracture was caused by the growth of helium bubbles at GBs. These adverse factors combine to make irradiated materials more susceptible to weld cracking. The results revealed that the vanadium alloy is more susceptible to fusion zone cracking than helium-doped 316 stainless steel. which demonstrated fusion zone cracking only in welds containing very high helium (>105 appm). Weld Cracking Tendency for Different He-Containing Alloys Because of the complexity of helium embrittlement during welding. tional conditions. In summary. 36). 38). Annealed Type 316 stainless steel shows the worst susceptibility to helium-induced cracking. The severity of the degradation has been found to be influenced not by single parameters.5 appm and higher. 43. 31).5 appm helium (Ref. 35). weld penetration. Results of an annealing study on helium-containing steel provided support evidence of the effect of stress on weld cracking (Refs. Specimens of 316 stainless steel containing 256 appm helium were heat treated at temperatures up to 1300°C for 1 h. helium-doped specimens failed at the fusion zone with an elongation of less than 2% and as low as 0. helium entrapped in irradiated materials degrades their weldability by producing cracking in the HAZ and.out defects. As the helium concentration was reduced. When the helium concentration in the steel exceeded 105 appm. 42. Cracking in the welds of the irradiated materials is due to the growth and coalescence of helium bubbles at GBs. Cold working was WELDING JOURNAL 21-s WELDING RESEARCH . In order to study the mechanical properties of the helium-bearing welds. 38) and 316 stainless steel (Refs. Even though helium bubble coalescence and growth were observed with increasing aging temperature. and fabrication history.

The method of helium introduction may also affect the weldability of materials. Based on these modes. Additionally. which results in a decrease in the bubble density (Refs. it is expected that only the helium atoms adjacent to GBs contribute to bubble nucleation. Clearly. Helium atoms in the grain interiors are trapped in these defects. 49. compressive stresses 22-s JANUARY 2011. or 2) carbides present at GBs in 304 steel may provide more nucleation sites for helium bubbles. Further investigation is needed to provide a better understanding of observed results. where A is a constant. The authors suggested two possible reasons for this behavior as follows: 1) 316LN is inherently more resistant to high-temperature creep than 304 stainless steel and therefore stressinduced cavity growth (intergranular cracking in HAZs) is suppressed in 316LNL. helium em- The growth of helium bubbles at GBs in the HAZ during welding can be divided into three sequential time regimes (Ref. During this stage. This determination is complicated by the fact that bubbles in the range of 6–18 nm have been observed in irradiated stainless steel (Ref. the bubbles observed in welded material result from growth and coalescence of the numerous nucleated bubbles. thereby inhibiting helium embrittlement. 54). In this regime. Bubble Coalescence WELDING RESEARCH Mechanism of Helium Embrittlement during the Welding Process To quantitatively understand the mechanism of helium embrittlement. 52).brittlement during welding is considered to be attributed primarily to the growth of GB helium bubbles. and resultant cracking in the HAZ during welding. Lin et al. 50). Db is the bubble diffusion coefficient. reported that irradiated steel is more susceptible to helium embrittlement during welding than tritium charged and aged steel (Ref. Kanne et al. 53). However. for tritium charged and aged material. evaluation of the helium bubbles can be divided into several stages. In the irradiated material. Postirradiation materials contain a high density of defects due to the neutron irradiation. CHe: N0 = ACHe (4) Fig. 54. The constant A is an adjustable parameter based on the experimental data. 58). Wang et al. Ti-modified austenitic stainless steel (PCA) exhibits much better resistance to GTA weld cracking than SA 316 stainless steel because the addition of Ti to the austenitic stainless steel leads to the formation of MC precipitation (Refs. reported that more extensive helium-induced weld cracking occurred in a high-carbon Type 304 stainless steel than in a special grade (ITER Grade) of 316LN (316LN-IG) stainless steel after plates of both steels were welded using low heat gas metal arc (GMA) overlay welding (Ref. 3 — Schematic representation of the GMA cladding process (Ref. For example. found to alleviate the HAZ cracking in helium-bearing steel (Ref. Regime I is the heat-up period before melting occurs. 44) proposed a model for the growth kinetics of helium bubbles during the welding process. 25) and Wang et al. Kawano et al. (Ref. the density of the nucleated bubbles N0 is proportional to the helium concentration. 25). On the other hand. It has been found that the formation of bubbles on GBs is accompanied by the development of a bubble-free zone adjacent to the boundaries in most cases (Ref. hypothesized that this was due to the difference in distribution of helium in irradiated and tritium charged and aged steel (Ref. 52). 56). This tendency is attributed to the following two possible mechanisms: 1) a high dislocation density that traps helium atoms and vacancies or 2) recovery processes of cold-worked grains that reduce available vacancies for bubble growth. 57. Kanne et al. 49). the distribution of helium from the trans- mutation reaction depends on the distribution of the transmutation element in the material. Figure 2 shows a schematic of the helium bubble growth mechanism along GBs during welding (Ref. later proposed different “simulation modes” to predict the weldability of irradiated stainless steel (Ref. the helium from boron transmutation is expected to be in the grain boundaries. the presence of other transmutation products and matrix damage in the irradiated material may also play an important role in helium embrittlement susceptibility. 65). Bubble Growth Even though it has been observed that nano-scale helium bubbles distribute throughout the matrix of annealed helium-containing materials. The bubbles can grow by absorption of thermal vacancies during the heatup period. 55). 51). coalescence. For example. the time rate of change of the bubble density (N) is given by (Refs. VOL. including helium bubble nucleation. These modes have been found to agree with experimental observations. 59) dN 2π Db N 2 = dt ln(L /4r ) where L is the bubble spacing. found weld cracking in neutron-irradiated 316 stainless steel and PCA alloys was no greater than that in materials doped with He by tritium charging and aging (Ref. helium bubbles along GBs migrate and coalesce. Tosten et al. However. Assuming the bubbles homogeneously nucleate at the grain boundary. and r is the bubble radius. helium is expected to distribute uniformly in the steel due to the high solubility of the tritium in the stainless steel. growth. Both steels were tritium charged and aged to contain helium concentrations of 90 appm. 90 . 25). (Ref. Kawano et al. Precipitates in the alloys may act as trapping sites for helium. Helium Bubble Behavior in the Heat-Affected Zone Nucleation of Helium Bubbles At the elevated temperatures experienced during welding. 54). Therefore. bubble nucleation along GBs occurs. More studies and knowledge of the bubble morphology in helium-containing materials are needed to determine a reasonable value of A. proposed that helium bubbles nucleate at GBs during the heat-up period of welding (Ref.

was eliminated in the steel containing helium at concentrations up to 220 appm (Ref. Helium bubbles are trapped between dendrites after solidification. At low temperatures (below 1000°C in steels) with low vacancy concentration. The driving force for growth is the helium gas overpressure in the bubble. Figure 3 shows a schematic representation of the GMA cladding process (Ref. which results in formation of microcracks and weakening of the interdendritic region. the gas pressure in the helium bubble exceeds the surface tension restraint. studied the mechanical properties of GMA cladding welds of 304 stainless steel plates that contained 3 to 220 appm helium from tritium decay (Ref. The low heat input and shallow weld penetration produced by this technique was intended to minimize the temperature and stress around the weld. L is the bubble spacing. The shrinkage stress during weld cooling causes propagation of these microcracks and brittle rupture. where the temperature is close to the melting point. The helium bubble behavior (size and density) in the test material under different conditions was examined. which have experienced different thermal histories and residual stresses.0 s after resolidification of the molten pool (Refs. It is reasonable to conclude that the growth of bubbles is minor in this regime. 52– 54). helium is rejected by the growing dendrites due to the WELDING JOURNAL 23-s WELDING RESEARCH The formation and growth of GB helium bubbles reduce the contact areas of the GB and weaken the GB (Refs. 44). 61. The growth rate of the bubbles in this regime is given by (Ref. the amount of underbead intergranular cracking in GMA welds is much less compared with that in the GTA stringer welds. Regime II is when the molten pool is present. 62). The high consistency of the calculated result based on the model and the experimental data suggests that the contribution of bubble coalescence to the bubble growth is a secondary effect. In this regime. 54) Researchers at Westinghouse Savannah River Co. welding simulations were performed on 304 stainless steels containing helium both by tritium charging and decay (Ref. However. the growth rate of the helium bubbles is approximately given by (Ref. 60) and helium implantation (Refs. Under this condition. Cracking in the HAZ of irradiated materials is ductile fracture with helium bubbles at grain boundaries acting as cavities or voids. However. no significant bubble growth is predicted (Ref. The cracking occurs when the tensile stain induced by weld shrinkage in the HAZ exceeds the fracture strain. During material resolidification. Ω is the atomic volume. Comparing the calculated radius of helium bubbles at the end of regime II to that at the end of regime III clearly suggests that the dramatic growth of the helium bubble is stress assisted. The results showed that the bubbles on grain boundaries located 1 to 3 grain diameters from the fusion zone should be 0. 65). this technique employs a short-circuiting metal transfer mode and high-speed cross-joint mechanical oscillation to produce cladding of adequate width to cover the repair area. This result was consistent with the measured time between the passing of the weld torch and onset of cracking. Equation 5 indicates that bubble growth during this regime is significantly affected by vacancy concentration. The axis of the tensile test was perpendicular to the clad surface. Type 304 stainless steel containing helium from tritium decay was welded using the GMA cladding process. 63–66). Helium Bubble Behavior in the Fusion Zone In the fusion zone. This model has the ability to predict the bubble sizes in different locations of the HAZ. Based on temperature profiles of the HAZ during the GTA welding process. 62). Underbead intergranular cracking started appearing in the GMA welds with 17 appm helium content and found to increase with higher helium concentrations. The helium bubble growth is still caused by the vacancy adsorption. To minimize the heat input.076 mm (Ref. during which the HAZ is in a stress-free state. Techniques to Improve the Weldability of Irradiated Materials Low-Heat Gas Metal Arc (GMA) Weld Cladding Technique (5) where δ is the grain boundary thickness. 25). This process is particularly favored at the HAZ close to the molten pool. In order to better understand the mechanism of weld cracking in irradiated materials and verify the proposed models. 25) 2πδΩDgbσ dr = α rkT dt (6) εf = (1-n )ln(L /2r )  sinh   3 (1 − n ) / 2  (7) where α is the spacing between the center of the bubbles and σ is the shrinkage stress normal to the GB. A comparison between the theoretical model calculation and experimental results showed good agreement (Refs. 25. experienced on conventional stringer welds. 25) e dr δΩDgbCv = dt 2r 2 diameter 1. the testing material was subjected to various thermal and stress cycles similar to the conditions the irradiated material would experience during an actual welding process.generated by the thermal expansion of the material will retard the growth of the bubbles. this technique generates much less heat during welding. 29). Applied through a simulator. Regime III occurs after the molten pool has begun to solidify. and Cev is the equilibrium vacancy concentration. Compared with conventional GTA welding. developed a low-heat gas metal arc (GMA) weld cladding technique to improve the weldability of heliumcontaining materials (Refs.025 µm according to Equation 5 (Ref. calculated the approximate bubble size after regime III in the HAZ for helium-charged Type 316 stainless steel. Dgb is the self-diffusion coefficient in the GB. the bubbles grow primarily through the absorption of vacancies into helium bubbles. In this regime. and the interface between the cladding and base steel. The fracture strain (εf) can be calculated by (Ref. the driving force for adsorption is the external stress. 25. The penetration of weld metal cladding into the underlying base metal was only about 0. and were performed on wafer specimens that were machined to contain both weld cladding and base metal. Under high temperature. brittle failure is caused by the precipitation of helium bubbles along the dendrite boundaries. the radius of the helium bubble at the end of regime II is 0. 65). 61. and the observed size of dimples decorated on the grain boundaries on the fracture surface. thus minimizing helium embrittlement cracking. 64). strong tensile stress is generated in the material due to shrinkage during cooling. Metallographic results showed that toe cracking. 65). Cracking at the Grain Boundary low solubility of helium in the solid. Lin et al. Bending tests were used to determine the effect of stress on existing helium cracks. Kanne et al. thus there is a high vacancy concentration. in which 308L welding wire was used as the filler metal (Ref. Based on Equation 6. and r is the bubble radius. which provides further evidence of the combined effects of high temperature and stress on weld cracking. No sig- .85 µm in where n is the work-hardening rate. This overpressure prevents thermal emission of vacancies for the bubbles and results in a net vacancy flux to the bubbles. The tensile tests were performed to evaluate the strength and ductility of the HAZ. 65).

It was found that the value of heat input during welding strongly affected the weldability of the ma- terial. indicative of helium-induced weld cracking. Nishimura et al. causes lower effective heat input and less stress in the material (Ref. it was hypothesized by Lin and Chin that changing the stress state in the material during welding would suppress the growth of helium bubbles and hence stop cracking (Ref. Wang et al.1 appm. and underbead cracking was minimal in the welds. Metallographic examination and dye penetration testing revealed that surface cracks were eliminated. where excessive helium bubble growth occurred. no helium-induced cracking in the HAZ was observed in any welds. cracks in the weld metal appeared in irradiated steel for pulse laser welds. 43. and HT-9 steel (Ref. Kawano et al.nificant degradation in mechanical properties was found for welded specimens containing less than 30 appm helium. Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG) Laser Welding Technique Because internal tensile stresses significantly accelerate the growth of helium bubbles during the cooling of the weld.1 to 0. The bubble growth was reoriented from along grain boundaries parallel to the weld path to along GBs perpendicular to the weld path. 55).5 mm thick) to neutronirradiated 304L stainless steel plates (8 mm thick) using a high-power YAG laser under conditions of both continuous wave (CW) and pulse modes (Ref. and the crack facets exhibited a dimpled structure. A sharp drop in area reduction was observed for test samples with helium concentrations above 35 appm. Thus. but additional work is required nonetheless.5 mm2). In nearly all cases. and 50 appm helium (Ref. However. using a YAG laser has been reported by Yamada et al. yield strength. In their process. No toe cracking in the cladding was observed. irradiated/unirradiated. 27. On the other hand. 73). 25). By applying a compressive stress of 55 MPa perpendicular to the weld direction. In their study. A GMA cladding weld approximately 7. Beadon-plate welding was also performed on the irradiated 304L stainless steel.3 appm helium. 44. For lap welded specimens. 27). YAG laser welding (heat input 1.6 cm wide was made on each side of the disc. application of a compressive stress to the actual components is difficult or impossible.2 mm. The irradiated steel was obtained from reactor tank walls at the Savannah River Site. The reduction in the ductility caused by irradiation damage was much larger than WELDING RESEARCH 24-s JANUARY 2011. It was found that YAG laser welding mitigated weld cracking in irradiated steels as compared with GTA and GMA weld cladding methods. The significant decrease in ductility and strength was attributed to the change in failure location from base metal to the underbead HAZ. The irradiation resulted in a helium concentration of 10. It appears that this technique is the solution to the problem of repairing irradiated materials. For bead-onplate welding. The tensile tests of the welded specimens showed that the material’s ductility was reduced by the welding for all three types of specimens. Tensile tests revealed that YAG laser welded specimens showed good mechanical properties. 44. applied the GMA cladding technique to irradiated 304 stainless steel that contained 10 appm helium (Refs. 72). During weld solidification and cooling. However. 74–76). 72). The ultimate.3 appm. Stress-Modified Welding Technique tensile stress is perpendicular to the welding direction. Their conclusion was that sound welds may be produced in heliumcontaining material using the stress-modified welding technique. the stress-modified complete penetration GTA welding process was used to weld tritium charged and aged Type 316 stainless steel sheets containing helium concentrations of 10 and 256 appm. which is typical for conventional GTA welding. the conventional GTA welding method resulted in deep surface cracks and severe underbead cracks in the welds of the steel containing helium even at a low concentration of 3. 90 . applied a controlled compressive stress perpendicular to the welding path to improve the weldability of irradiated steels (Refs. However. intergranular cracking was observed in the HAZ in the specimens containing 50 appm helium.5. The authors hypothesized that this is because the YAG laser generates much smaller weld beads (less than 0. it was found that the ductility of an irradiated/unirradiated specimen was similar to that of an irradiated material without welding.5~2 kJ/cm) was used during GTA and GMA welding (Refs. the extent of weld cracking was significantly reduced compared to that of the conventional stringer bead welds. and elongation values of the stress-modified welds were found to be similar to the values of unwelded helium-containing base steel. 27). All specimens failed not in the irradiated 304L steel but in the unirradiated material (Ref. (Refs. 52. 53). When laser welding with a heat input of 20 kJ/cm was performed. The specimens failed in a completely brittle fracture mode when the helium concentration was increased to 221. On the other hand. 25%CW PCA. Other steels were also investigated. A specimen from a 15-cm disc was welded. helium bubble growth was negligible even in the specimens containing 50 appm helium after laser welding with 1 kJ/cm heat input. 67–71). and thus. The mechanical properties were studied for the unwelded base steel and stress-modified welds containing 10 appm helium (Refs. 67. the principal shrinkage-induced Welding helium-containing/irradiated materials using a Nd-YAG laser beam has been investigated by several Japanese groups (Refs. Similar results were observed by Goods et al. 68). Experimental results showed that GB helium bubble growth was effectively retarded.2 kJ/cm) was carried out in a hot cell by remote operation and performed to weld the following three types of specimens: unirradiated/unirradiated.5 mm was welded onto the helium-containing steel.6 cm long and 2. The 304L stainless steel was irradiated in a boiling water reactor (BWR) and contained 9 appm helium. the helium-bearing tensile test samples failed in the base metal region. HAZ intergranular cracks were only observed in specimens welded by the CW YAG laser with the highest heat inputs (480 and 540 J/cm).0 appm on the outside surface of the disc. 44). The experimental material was obtained by helium ion implantation using a cyclotron. Kanne et al. Wang et al. 66). which is typical for laser welding. cladding with a thickness of 1. 72–77). when the GMA cladding was applied on Type 304 stainless steel containing 2. Welding irradiated 316LN-IG stainless steel plates and tubes. and irradiated/irradiated.7 and 85 appm helium from tritium decay (Refs. The penetration into the base metal was about 0.4 appm on the inside surface and 5. VOL. containing 3. conducted bead-on-plate YAG laser welding on 304 stainless steel containing 0. the technique illustrates the nature of the problem and provides guidance for further research. The heat input generated by the laser was 240–360 J/cm for the pulse mode and 420–540 J/cm for the CW mode. 5. found that a compressive stress level at approximately 25% of the room temperature yield strength eliminated all fusion zone and HAZ cracking (Refs. Scanning electron microscope examination revealed that intergranular cracks occurred in the HAZ of all helium-containing samples. even though equivalent heat input (1. 58. successful GTA welding was also achieved in neutron-irradiated 20%CW 316 stainless steel. 27. The laser welding method was found to minimize the heat input and stress in the welds and greatly improve the weldability of irradiated materials. successfully lap welded unirradiated 316L stainless steel plates (0. However. The orientation of the cracks were preferentially normal to the cladding fusion boundary.

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