Water hammers, or fluid transients, compress flammable gasses to their autognition temperatures in piping systems to cause fires or explosions. While this statement may be true for many industrial systems, the focus of this research are reactor coolant water systems (RCW) in nuclear power plants, which generate flammable gasses during normal operations and during accident conditions, such as loss of coolant accidents (LOCA’s) or reactor meltdowns. When combustion occurs, the gas will either burn (deflagrate) or explode, depending on the system geometry and the quantity of the flammable gas and oxygen. If there is sufficient oxygen inside the pipe during the compression process, an explosion can ignite immediately. If there is insufficient oxygen to initiate combustion inside the pipe, the flammable gas can only ignite if released to air, an oxygen rich environment. This presentation considers the fundamentals of gas compression and causes of ignition in nuclear reactor systems. In addition to these ignition mechanisms, specific applications are briefly considered. Those applications include a hydrogen fire following the Three Mile Island meltdown, hydrogen explosions following Fukushima Daiichi explosions, and on-going fires and explosions in U.S nuclear power plants. Novel conclusions are presented here as follows.
1. A hydrogen fire was ignited by water hammer at Three Mile Island.
2. Hydrogen explosions were ignited by water hammer at Fukushima Daiichi.
3. Piping damages in U.S. commercial nuclear reactor systems have occurred since reactors were first built. These damages were not caused by water hammer alone, but were caused by water hammer compression of flammable hydrogen and resultant deflagration or detonation inside of the piping.