A radial steam turbine developed cracks after 220,000 hours of service. The rotor had an integral disc with eight rows of blades, and a short stub. Nine inlets on the disc channeled steam from one side to the other, and then radially outward.
Analysis of the fracture surface revealed cracks originating in some of the inlet holes, and propagating by fatigue. No material defects were found at the crack initiation sites. Hardness and microstructure (optical) across the disc were uniform, but chemical composition analysis of the alloy revealed high level of phosphorus and sulfur. In addition, the microstructure consisted of uniformly tempered martensite with manganese sulfide stringers. Although tensile properties were normal, impact testing indicated embrittlement by a shift in Fracture Appearance Transition Temperature (FATT). Metallurgical evidence of embrittlement was also found. It was concluded that service induced cyclic loading in combination with reduced crack resistance caused by embrittlement lead to cracking.