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Dynamics and Preconditioning in a Single-Droplet Vapor Explosion

Roberta Concilio Hansson, Hyun Sun Park, Truc-Nam Dinh

Nuclear Technology / Volume 167 / Number 1 / July 2009 / Pages 223-234

Technical Paper / NURETH-12 / Thermal Hydraulics

The present study aims to develop a mechanistic understanding of the thermal-hydraulic processes in a vapor explosion, which may occur in nuclear power plants during a hypothetical severe accident, involving interactions of high-temperature corium melt and volatile coolant. Dynamics of the hot liquid (melt) droplet and the volatile liquid (coolant) were investigated in the Micro-Interactions in Steam Explosion Experiments (MISTEE) facility by performing well-controlled, externally triggered, single-droplet experiments, using a high-speed visualization system with synchronized digital cinematography and continuous X-ray radiography, called Simultaneous High-speed Acquisition of X-ray Radiography and Photography (SHARP). After an elaborate image processing, the SHARP images depict the evolution of both melt material (dispersal) and coolant (bubble dynamics) and their microscale interactions. The analysis of the data shows a deficiency in using the bubble dynamics alone to provide a consistent explanation of the energetic behavior. In contrast, the SHARP data reveal a correlation between the droplet's dynamics in the bubble's first cycle and the energetics of the subsequent explosive evaporation in the bubble's second cycle. The finding provides a basis to suggest that a so-called melt-droplet preconditioning, i.e., deformation/prefragmentation of a hot melt droplet immediately following the pressure trigger, is instrumental to the subsequent coolant entrainment, evaporation, and energetics of the resulting vapor explosion.

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