The mercury target vessel used for the spallation neutron source in J-PARC has multi-walled structure made of stainless steel type 316L, which comprises a mercury vessel and a water shroud. In 2015, water leak incidents from the water shroud occurred while the mercury target was operated with a proton beam power of 500 kW. Several investigations were conducted to identify the cause of failure. The results of the visual inspections, mockup tests, and analytical evaluations suggested that the water leak was caused by the combination of two factors. One was the diffusion bonding failure due to the large thermal stress induced by welding of the bolt head, which fixes the mercury vessel and the water shroud, during the fabrication process. The other was the thermal fatigue failure of the seal weld due to the repetitive beam trip during the operating period. These target failures point to the importance of eliminating initial defects from welding lines and to secure the rigidity and reliability of welded structures. The next mercury target was fabricated with an improved design which adopted parts of monolithic structure machined by wire EDM to reduce welding lines, and intensified inspections to eliminate the initial defects. The operation with the improved target is planned to be started in October 2017.
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