This work highlighted that a ground surface finish and the exposure to a pressurised water reactor (PWR) environment result in a decreased low-cycle fatigue lifetime, an enhanced fatigue crack initiation and an accelerated fatigue crack growth rate of 304 L austenitic stainless steel. A ground surface finish promotes fatigue crack initiation and short crack growth especially in a water environment, due to the highly deformed underlying microstructure with high-angle grain boundaries and the grinding marks on surface. Martensite was observed in the vicinity of secondary crack tips in specimens tested in a simulated PWR primary side environment. The aggregated presence of α′- and ε-martensite in the vicinity of the fatigue crack tip can enhance the material's susceptibility to hydrogen-assisted fatigue cracking. Martensite formation was rarely observed in specimens exposed to high temperature air. The phase transformation from γ-austenite to αꞌ-martensite in the PWR primary environment occurred via the intermediate ε-martensite phase.
- Environmentally assisted fatigue
- Martensite formation
- Stainless steels
- Surface finish