The French Regulatory Commission insisted on a survey justifying the assumed mechanical behavior of components exposed to Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) water under cyclic loading without taking into account its effect. In the US and Japan, the fatigue life correlation factors, so called Fen, are formulated and standardized on the basis of laboratory data to take into account the effect on fatigue life evaluation.

However, the current fatigue codification, suffers from a lack of understanding of environmental effects on the fatigue lives of stainless steels in simulated hydrogenated PWR environments. Samples tested in a recent study were analyzed to highlight the strain rate effect (within a range 0.4%/s to 0.004%/s) at the early stage of fatigue life in PWR primary environment for a 304L stainless steel. The deleterious effect of PWR primary environment on fatigue crack initiation was observed with a quantitative microscopic approach. Multi scale observations of oxide morphology and microstructure were carried out from common optical microscopy using recent technologies such as 3D oxide reconstruction, and DualBeam observations.

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