An ex-vessel steam explosion may occur when, during a severe reactor accident, the reactor vessel fails and the molten core pours into the water in the reactor cavity. A steam explosion is a fuel coolant interaction process where the heat transfer from the melt to water is so intense and rapid that the timescale for heat transfer is shorter than the timescale for pressure relief. This can lead to the formation of shock waves and production of missiles that may endanger surrounding structures. A strong enough steam explosion in a nuclear power plant could jeopardize the containment integrity and so lead to a direct release of radioactive material to the environment. In the paper, different scenarios of ex-vessel steam explosions in a typical pressurized water reactor cavity are analyzed with the code MC3D, which is being developed for the simulation of fuel-coolant interactions. A comprehensive parametric study was performed varying the location of the melt release (central and side melt pours), the cavity water sub-cooling, the primary system overpressure at vessel failure and the triggering time for explosion calculations. The main purpose of the study was to determine the most challenging ex-vessel steam explosion cases in a typical pressurized water reactor and to estimate the expected pressure loadings on the cavity walls. Special attention was given to melt droplets freezing, which may significantly influence the outcome of the fuel-coolant interaction process. The performed analysis shows that for some ex-vessel steam explosion scenarios much higher pressure loads are predicted than obtained in the OECD program SERENA Phase 1.

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