The current US fleet of nuclear reactors has been in service for three decades. Over this period, existing welds in stainless steel (SS) shrouds have sustained stress corrosion cracking (SCC) and are in need of repair. Additionally, helium has formed interstitially as a byproduct of proton bombardment. Current repair technology, such as TIG welding, puts extreme amounts of heat into the material and allows for interstitial helium atoms to aggregate and form bubbles/voids at grain boundaries. This significantly weakens the material, proving to be a very counterproductive and ineffective repair technique. Much study has been done on friction stir processing (FSP), but none has explored it as an enabling repair technology for use in nuclear applications. Because of its relatively low energy input as a solid state joining technology, it is proposed that FSP could effectively heal SCCs in these existing welds without the negative side effect of helium bubble formation. A spread of speeds and feeds were initially tested using a PCBN-W-Re tool on 304L SS. Six of these parameter sets were selected as representations of high, medium, and low temperature-per-power outputs for this research: 2 IPM-80 RPM, 2 IPM-150 RPM, 4 IPM-150 RPM, 4 IPM-250 RPM, 6 IPM-125 RPM, and 6 IPM-175 RPM. These varied parameter sets were tested for their tensile, micro-hardness, and corrosion resistant properties. In general, the lower IPM and RPM values resulted in higher ultimate tensile strengths (UTS). Higher IPM and RPM values resulted in tunnel, pin hole, and surface void defects. These defects caused premature failure in tensile tests and could often be identified through microscopy. Micro-hardness testing demonstrated a strong correlation per the Hall-Petch relationship – finer grain sizes resulted in higher yield strength (hardness values) of the material. The tool temperature during FSP was a good indicator of the expected hardness – lower temperatures resulted in higher hardness values. Corrosion testing was performed with a 1000-hour alternate immersion test in a room temperature 3.5% NaCl solution. With these testing parameters, the results demonstrated that FSP had no effect on the corrosion resistance of 304L SS under these conditions.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Cameron Gunter, friction stir processing, welding, FSP, FSW, irradiated stainless steel, 304L, crack healing, alternate immersion corrosion testing, micrographs, tensile testing, micro-hardness maps



Technology Emphasis

Manufacturing Systems (MS)