Pitting and crevice corrosion are a major hazard to a nuclear facility because of the rapid
penetration of the metal with little overall loss of mass. A nuclear facility minimizes pitting and
crevice corrosion by the following actions.
Avoiding stagnant or low flow conditions.
Using metals and alloys that are less susceptible to the corrosion.
Avoiding agents in the medium that cause pitting (for example, chlorides and
Designing the system and components such that no crevices are present.
Stress Corrosion Cracking
Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) is a type of intergranular attack corrosion that occurs at the
grain boundaries under tensile stress. Grain boundaries are discussed in detail in the Material
Science Handbook. SCC occurs in susceptible alloys when the alloy is exposed to a particular,
specific environment if the alloy is in a stressed condition. Stress corrosion cracking appears
to be relatively independent of general uniform corrosion processes. Thus, the extent of general
corrosion can be essentially nil, and stress cracking can still occur. Most pure metals are
immune to this type of attack.
According to the most widely accepted theory, stress corrosion cracking is caused by a process
called chemisorption. Unlike relatively weak physical absorption, such as hydrogen gas on
platinum metal, chemisorption may be thought of as the formation of a compound between the
metal atoms on the surface as a monomolecular layer of the chemisorbed substance, such as Cl-,
OH-, Br-, and some other ions. The formation of this chemisorbed layer greatly reduces the
attraction between neighboring metal atoms. A defect initially present then grows as the metal
atoms separate under stress, more chemisorption occurs, and the process continues. In very
severe cases, the time required for this cracking to occur is only a matter of minutes.
Many stainless steels are susceptible to stress corrosion cracking. Stainless steels containing
18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel are susceptible to cracking in environments
containing chloride ions and in concentrated caustic environments (that is, in environments
where the hydroxyl ion concentration is high). On the other hand, these types of stainless steels
do not exhibit any tendency to crack when they are exposed to water environments containing
nitrate (NO ), sulfite (SO ), and ammonium (NH ) ions.
SCC is of great concern because it can readily crack metal of appreciable thickness. If the
environment is severe enough, cracking can occur in a very short period of time. The crack can
then lead to a serious failure of the component, or the system, and all the attendant results (for
example, contamination, loss of coolant, and loss of pressure).