Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC) has been detected in Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) on core shrouds and primary water re-circulation piping made of low carbon stainless steels. Material hardening strongly affects SCC propagation behavior, and SCC growth rates increase with increasing hardness of austenitic stainless steels caused by cold work or neutron irradiation.
Research work has been conducted in the authors’ laboratories with the aim of improving SCC resistance using chemical composition control of stainless steels. It has been previously reported that high stacking fault energy (SFE) materials showed better SCC resistance than low SFE materials due to hardening being suppressed in high SFE materials. In the present study, SCC growth rate (CGR) tests were performed using 15% cold worked Types 316L and 25Cr-20Ni stainless steels in a simulated BWR water environment. The 25Cr-20Ni stainless steel used has high SFE value due to chemical composition control and measured SCC growth rates were lower than those of low SFE stainless steels.
However, oxidation behavior is one of the more important factors influencing SCC of austenitic stainless steels in addition to material hardening behavior, and the influence of the chemical composition control necessary to increase SFE on oxidation behavior in BWR primary coolants is still unclear. In this study, therefore, immersion tests using Types 316L and 25Cr-20Ni stainless steel specimens were also conducted in the simulated BWR water environment. The surface oxide films on the specimens were then analyzed with micro-Raman spectroscopy and glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy in order to help clarify the oxidation behavior.
The results of these tests and analyses showed that the NiFe2O4 content of the outer oxide layers on the high SFE stainless steels was higher than that on the low SFE stainless steels. The inner oxide film on the 25Cr-20Ni stainless steel also had a high chromium content.
Based on the above results, SCC resistance and oxidation behavior of high SFE austenitic stainless steels in a simulated BWR water environment will be discussed.