© 2015, The Author(s). The geometry of fracture associated with the propagation of cracks originating at the edges of (001) oriented, 200 mm diameter silicon wafers has been investigated under two regimes of high temperature processing. Under spike annealing, fracture did not occur on low index planes and all except one wafer exhibited crack patterns that started initially to run radially, but after a distance of typically 20–30 mm, turned and ran almost tangentially. Wafers subjected to plateau annealing, with a 60 s dwell time at high temperature, predominantly fractured through radial cracks running along $$\langle 110\rangle $$⟨110⟩ directions. X-ray diffraction imaging reveals substantial slip in all wafers subjected to plateau annealing. We demonstrate using finite element (FE) modelling that the change in fracture geometry is associated with this plastic deformation, which changes the stress distribution during the cooling phase of the rapid thermal annealing cycle. FE simulations without plastic relaxation show that the radial component of the thermal stress distribution is compressive in the centre of the wafer, causing the crack to run tangentially. Simulations incorporating temperature dependent plasticity showed that the equivalent stress becomes tensile when the plateau anneal allows time for significant plastic relaxation, permitting the crack to continue propagating linearly.