Dominant Factor for the Occurrence of a Steam Explosion
For the study of a steam explosion phenomenon in a nuclear reactor, prototypic corium, a mixture of UO2 and ZrO2 was melted in a cold crucible by applying an induction heating technique. The molten corium was then poured into cold water. It was fragmented into very small particles, so called debris, which enables a very rapid heat transfer to the water. Some cases led to steam explosions by thermal expansion of the water. After the tests, all the debris particles were dried and classified by their size. From the analysis by using EPMA, it was shown that the particles generated by a steam explosion had fine and irregular forms. It is known that real corium (including UO2) hardly leads to a steam explosion, different from pure ZrO2 or metal. A reason for this was previously suggested in that the corium generated hydrogen gas during melt-water interaction, and it enclosed the melt drops to prevent a direct contact of the corium and water. In order to confirm this fact, the debris particles were analyzed with ICP-AES for their typical element contents, EPMA for the homogeneity of the solid solution, XRD for the chemical compounds, and TGA and hydrogen reduction analysis for the percentage of the debris oxidation and reduction. These analyses showed that hydrogen was not directly related to steam explosion. Meanwhile, the material characteristics of the corium compositions are newly suggested to be the most probable reason for the occurrence of a steam explosion so far.
Andreas Öchsner and Graeme E. Murch
B.T. Min et al., "Dominant Factor for the Occurrence of a Steam Explosion", Defect and Diffusion Forum, Vols. 273-276, pp. 388-393, 2008