5 years ago

The natural aging of austenitic stainless steels irradiated with fast neutrons

The natural aging of austenitic stainless steels irradiated with fast neutrons
Much of today's research in nuclear materials relies heavily on archived, historical specimens, as neutron irradiation facilities become ever more scarce. These materials are subject to many processes of stress- and irradiation-induced microstructural evolution, including those during and after irradiation. The latter of these, referring to specimens “naturally aged” in ambient laboratory conditions, receives far less attention. The long and slow set of rare defect migration and interaction events during natural aging can significantly change material properties over decadal timescales. This paper presents the results of natural aging carried out over 15 years on austenitic stainless steels from a BN-350 fast breeder reactor, each with its own irradiation, stress state, and natural aging history. Natural aging is shown to significantly reduce hardness in these steels by 10–25% and partially alleviate stress-induced hardening over this timescale, showing that materials evolve back towards equilibrium even at such a low temperature. The results in this study have significant implications to any nuclear materials research program which uses historical specimens from previous irradiations, challenging the commonly held assumptions that materials “on the shelf” do not evolve.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0022311517308346

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