The degradation of stress-controlled fatigue-life (stress-life) of notched specimens was measured in the presence of internal and in external hydrogen for two strain-hardened austenitic stainless steels: 316L and 21Cr-6Ni-9Mn. To assess the sensitivity of fatigue performance to various hydrogen conditions fatigue tests were performed in four environments: (1) in air with no added hydrogen, (2) in air after hydrogen pre-charging to saturate the steel with internal hydrogen, and in external gaseous hydrogen at pressure of (3)10 MPa (1.45 ksi), or (4) 103 MPa (15 ksi). The fatigue performance of the strain-hardened 316L and 21Cr-6Ni-9Mn steels in air was indistinguishable for the tested conditions. Decreases in the fatigue-life at a given stress level were measured in the presence of hydrogen and depended on the hydrogen environment. Testing in 103 MPa (15 ksi) external gaseous hydrogen always resulted in a clear decrease in the fatigue-life at a given maximum stress. Alloy dependent reductions in the observed life at a given maximum stress were observed in the presence of internal hydrogen or in gaseous hydrogen at a pressure of 10 MPa (1.45 ksi). The measured fatigue-life of hydrogen pre-charged specimens was comparable to the life with no intentional hydrogen additions. Accounting for the increased flow stress resulting from the supersaturation of hydrogen after pre-charging results in consistency between the measured fatigue-life of the pre-charged condition and measurements in 103 MPa (15 ksi) external hydrogen. The current results indicate that internal hydrogen may be an efficient method to infer hydrogen-assisted fatigue degradation of stainless steels in high-pressure gaseous hydrogen.

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