With the aim to investigate the influence of strain hardening on the stainless steels susceptibility to stress corrosion cracking, tests were conducted in PWR environment on CT specimens, taken from a 316L stainless steel sheet cold rolled to 40% in thickness reduction. The initial cracks obtained by the fatigue pre-cracking have an atypical ‘V’ shape with smaller propagation in the center of the CT thickness compared to nominal propagation observed at both sides. The initial explanation was to consider a stress intensity factor derived from classical reference solution on the basis of a straight crack front, and considering the local value of the crack depth in the equation. This assumption raised several problems analsyes in this paper. This particular shape of the initial defect may be related to several factors, and partly to the 40% cold rolling. It is likely that the hardening is not uniform, with a higher rate at the specimen sides than in the central area. In addition, significant residual stresses due to the gradient of mechanical properties are observed. Due to the high rate of work hardening by rolling of the sheet metal, a gradient of the mechanical properties through the thickness was determined, and the residual stresses profile induced by this process was measured. The variations obtained are consistent with each other: the material is more hardened in the vicinity of specimen surface and residual stresses are compressive in nature in the central part of the specimen and of tensile type on the flanks. All these data were firstly considered in order to assess their role regarding the particular form of the initial crack front obtained after fatigue: the 3D finite element calculations taking into account the true shape of the crack front demonstrate the relationship between the characteristics of the experimental crack front obtained after fatigue pre-cracking and the residual stresses. Moreover, from the residual stresses measured on the plate where samples have been machined/prepared, the residual stresses field in the specimen after its machining is calculated and then taken into account in the mechanical analysis. The characteristics of this field in addition to the mechanical loading applied during SCC testing can explain the crack propagation behavior observed experimentally.

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