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Letters to Nature
Nature 308, 51 - 52 (01 March 1984); doi:10.1038/308051a0

Is neutron radiation exposure always detrimental to metals (steels)?

K. Linga Murty

Nuclear Engineering Department, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27650, USA

It is well established that irradiated metals and alloys exhibit increased mechanical strength accompanied by reduced ductility, commonly referred to as irradiation strengthening and embrittlement. We talk about radiation damage and environmental degradation of metals following radiation exposure. Indeed, there have been numerous conferences and symposia held and planned on this subject, which include research work and discussions with the central theme being the damage created in materials by neutron radiation exposure. Radiation embrittlement in metals is believed to be due mainly to (1) changes in flow properties because of the interaction of dislocations with irradiation-produced defects1, and (2) precipitation of transmutation-produced gases and irradiation-induced segregation at grain boundaries which are potential fracture sites2. Contrary to the previously observed radiation embrittlement in metals, I report here that neutron irradiation of mild steel improved both the mechanical strength and ductility at 373 K even at relatively high (~1018 neutrons cm−2), fast (>1 MeV) neutron doses. To my knowledge, such improvement has never been observed before.



1. Bloom, E. E. in Radiation Damage in Metals (eds Petersen, N. L. & Harkness, S. D.) 295−329 (American Society for Metals, Metals Park, Ohio, 1975).
2. Wolfenden, A., Holland, J. R., Lott, R. G. & Spitznagel, J. A. in Phase Stability During Irradiation (eds Holland, J. R., Mansur, L. K. & Potter, D. I.) 383−413 (AIME, Warrendale, Pennsylvania, 1981). | ChemPort |
3. Murty, K. L. & Hall, E. O. in Irradiation Effects on the Microstructure and Properties of Metals 53−71 (ASTM STP 611, Philadelphia, 1976). | ChemPort |
4. Murty, K. L. Mater. Sci. Engng 59, 207 (1983). | Article | ChemPort |
5. Steele, L. E. in Status of USA Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessel Surveillance for Radiation Effects (ed. Steele, L. E.) 227−272 (ASTM STP 784, Philadelphia, 1983). | ChemPort |
6. Ostensson, B. & Westin, R. The Fracture Toughness of A533B Pressure Vessel Steel at Low Strain-Rates, Pap. S-573 (Aktiebolaget Atomenergi, Studswik, Sweden, 1977).

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