Technical Briefs

A Hydrogen Ignition Mechanism for Explosions in Nuclear Facility Piping Systems

[+] Author and Article Information
Robert A. Leishear

Savannah River National Laboratory,
Aiken, SC 29808
e-mail: Robert.Leishear@SRNL.DOE.gov

Contributed by the Pressure Vessel and Piping Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF PRESSURE VESSEL TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received February 7, 2011; final manuscript received April 22, 2013; published online September 18, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Somnath Chattopadhyay.

J. Pressure Vessel Technol 135(5), 054501 (Sep 18, 2013) (5 pages) Paper No: PVT-11-1024; doi: 10.1115/1.4024639 History: Received February 07, 2011; Revised April 22, 2013

Hydrogen explosions may occur simultaneously with fluid transients' accidents in nuclear facilities, and a theoretical mechanism to relate fluid transients to hydrogen deflagrations and explosions is presented herein. Hydrogen and oxygen generation due to the radiolysis of water is a recognized hazard in piping systems used in the nuclear industry, where the accumulation of hydrogen and oxygen at high points in the piping system is expected, and explosive conditions may occur. Pipe ruptures in nuclear reactor cooling systems were attributed to hydrogen explosions inside pipelines, i.e., Hamaoka, Nuclear Power Station in Japan, and Brunsbuettel in Germany (Fig. 1Fig. 1

Hydrogen explosion damage in nuclear facilities Antaki, et al. [9,10-12] (ASME, Task Group on Impulsively Loaded Vessels, 2009, Bob Nickell)

). Prior to these accidents, an ignition source for hydrogen was not clearly demonstrated, but these accidents demonstrated that a mechanism was, in fact, available to initiate combustion and explosion. A new theory to identify an ignition source and explosion cause is presented here, and further research is recommended to fully understand this explosion mechanism. In fact, this explosion mechanism may be pertinent to explosions in major nuclear accidents, and a similar explosion mechanism is also possible in oil pipelines during off-shore drilling.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Reported hydrogen explosions in Japanese nuclear power plants [4]

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Self-ignition of stoichiometric hydrogen and oxygen due to temperature increase [4]

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Pressure surges at point A due to valve closure in a pipe with gas accumulation

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Gas volume at point A due to valve closure in a pipe with gas accumulation



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