Reactor core internal components in light water reactors are subjected to neutron irradiation. It has been shown that the austenitic stainless steels used in reactor core internals are susceptible to stress corrosion cracking after extended neutron exposure. This form of material degradation is a complex phenomenon that involves concomitant conditions of irradiation, stress, and corrosion. Interacting with fatigue damage, irradiation-enhanced environmental effects could also contribute to cyclic crack growth. In this paper, the effects of neutron irradiation on cyclic cracking behavior were investigated for austenitic stainless steel welds. Post-irradiation cracking growth tests were performed on weld heat-affected zone specimens in a simulated boiling water reactor environment, and cyclic crack growth rates were obtained at two doses. Environmentally enhanced cracking was readily established in irradiated specimens. Crack growth rates of irradiated specimens were significantly higher than those of nonirradiated specimens. The impact of neutron irradiation on environmentally enhanced cyclic cracking behavior is discussed for different load ratios.

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