Burst testing is used to assess the performance of stainless steel pressure vessels designed to contain tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Burst ductility of tritium-exposed vessels is reduced in time as a result of the combined embrittlement effects from tritium that has diffused into the microstructure and its radioactive decay product, helium-3. A materials system model and finite element procedure were developed to predict burst pressure and the vessel volume change (ductility) during burst testing. The model is used to predict changes in burst pressure and ductility from the tritium service history, known values of tritium diffusivity, and published data on the effects of tritium and helium on the tensile properties of stainless steel. Good agreement has been achieved with actual burst test data for unexposed vessels. It is shown that the service history could be used to derive values of tritium concentration in the metal and the depth of penetration in the vessel sidewall. These values could be used in the finite element model to predict values of burst pressure and burst ductility for tritium-exposed vessels.

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