The effect of thermal aging on the degradation of fracture toughness and Charpy-impact properties of austenitic stainless steel (SS) welds has been characterized at reactor temperatures. The solidification behavior and the distribution and morphology of the ferrite phase in SS welds are described. Thermal aging of the welds results in moderate decreases in Charpy-impact strength and fracture toughness. The upper-shelf Charpy-impact energy of aged welds decreases by 50–80 J/cm2. The decrease in fracture-toughness J integral-resistance (J-R) curve or JIc is relatively small. Thermal aging has minimal effect and the welding process has a significant effect on the tensile strength. However, the existing data are inadequate to accurately establish the effect of the welding process on fracture properties of SS welds. Consequently, the approach used for evaluating thermal and neutron embrittlement of austenitic SS welds relies on establishing a lower-bound fracture-toughness J-R curve for unaged and aged and nonirradiated and irradiated SS welds. The existing fracture-toughness J-R curve data for SS welds have been reviewed and evaluated to define lower-bound J-R curves for submerged arc (SA)/shielded metal arc (SMA)/manual metal arc (MMA) welds and gas tungsten arc (GTA)/metal inert gas (MIG)/tungsten inert gas (TIG) welds in the unaged and aged conditions. At reactor temperatures, the fracture toughness of GTA/MIG/TIG welds is a factor of about 2.3 higher than that of SA/SMA/MMA welds. Thermal aging decreases the fracture toughness of all welds by about 20%. The potential combined effects of thermal and neutron embrittlement of austenitic SS welds are also described. Lower-bound curves are presented, which define the change in coefficient C and exponent n of the power-law J-R curve and the JIc value for SS welds as a function of neutron dose. The potential effects of reactor coolant environment on the fracture toughness of austenitic SS welds are also discussed.

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