Collapsing criteria for vapor film around solid spheres as a fundamental stage leading to vapor explosion

Roy Freud, Ronen Harari, Eran Sher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Following a partial fuel-melting accident, a Fuel-Coolant Interaction (FCI) can result with the fragmentation of the melt into tiny droplets. A vapor film is then formed between the melt fragments and the coolant, while preventing a contact between them. Triggering, propagation and expansion typically follow the premixing stage. In the triggering stage, vapor film collapse around one or several of the fragments occurs. This collapse can be the result of fragments cooling, a sort of mechanical force, or by any other means. When the vapor film collapses and the coolant re-establishes contact with the dry surface of the hot melt, it may lead to a very rapid and rather violent boiling. In the propagation stage the shock wave front leads to stripping of the films surrounding adjacent droplets which enhance the fragmentation and the process escalates. During this process a large quantity of liquid vaporizes and its expansion can result in destructive mechanical damage to the surrounding structures. This multiphase thermal detonation in which high pressure shock wave is formed is regarded as "vapor explosion". The film boiling and its possible collapse is a fundamental stage leading to vapor explosion. If the interaction of the melt and the coolant does not result in a film boiling, no explosion occurs. Many studies have been devoted to determine the minimum temperature and heat flux that is required to maintain a film boiling. The present experimental study examines the minimum temperature that is required to maintain a film boiling around metal spheres immersed into a liquid (subcooled distilled water) reservoir. In order to simulate fuel fragments that are small in dimension and has mirror-like surface, small spheres coated with anti-oxidation layer were used. The heat flux from the spheres was calculated from the sphere's temperature profiles and the sphere's properties. The vapor film collapse was associated with a sharp rise of the heat flux during the cooling process-from values typical for film boiling to much higher values typical for nucleate boiling. Correlations for the minimum temperature and the minimum heat flux necessary to maintain film boiling were established in terms of the subcooling level, the size of the spheres and their material. The minimum temperature to maintain film boiling was used as the principle criteria for the occurrence of vapor explosion. Other criteria, for the intensity of the vapor film collapse was derived from the maximum heat flux following the vapor film collapse, and the audible sound (which is generated by the shock wave). It is assumed that a high intensity of the vapor film collapse will result in a more efficient propagation stage and enhancement of the vapor explosion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-727
Number of pages6
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2009


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