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 at later times, during the expansion of the highly pressurized water vapor, that may endanger surrounding structures. In contrast to specialized steam explosion CFD codes, where the steam explosion is modeled on micro-scale using fundamental averaged multiphase flow conservation equations, in the presented approach the steam explosion is modeled in a simplified manner as an expanding high-pressure premixture of dispersed molten fuel, liquid water and vapor. Applying the developed steam explosion model, a comprehensive analysis of the ex-vessel steam explosion in a typical PWR reactor cavity was done using the CFD code CFX-10. At four selected locations, which are of importance for the assessment of the vulnerability of cavity structures, the pressure histories were recorded and the corresponding pressure impulses calculated. The pressure impulses determine the destructive potential of the steam explosion and represent the input for the structural mechanical analysis of the cavity structures. The simulation results show that the pressure impulses depend mainly on the steam explosion energy conversion ratio, whereas the influence of the premixture vapor volume fraction, which is a parameter in our model and determines the maximum steam explosion pressure, is not significant.

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