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Nuclear Power Plant Fires and Explosions: Part III — Hamaoka Piping Explosion

[+] Author Affiliations
Robert A. Leishear

Leishear Engineering, LLC, Aiken, SC

Paper No. PVP2017-66284, pp. V004T04A013; 9 pages
  • ASME 2017 Pressure Vessels and Piping Conference
  • Volume 4: Fluid-Structure Interaction
  • Waikoloa, Hawaii, USA, July 16–20, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Pressure Vessels and Piping Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5797-7
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


An explosion that burst a steel pipe like a paper fire cracker at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, Unit-1 is investigated in this paper, which is one of a series of papers investigating fires and explosions in nuclear power plants. The accumulation of flammable hydrogen and oxygen due to radiolysis has long been recognized as a potential problem in nuclear reactors, where radiolysis is the process that decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen by radiation exposure in the reactor core. Hydrogen ignition and explosion has long been considered the cause of this Hamaoka piping explosion, but the cause of ignition was considered to be a minor fluid transient, or water hammer, that ignited flammable gasses in the piping, which was made possible by the presence of catalytic noble metals inside the piping. The theory presented here is that a much larger pressure surge occurred due to water hammer during operations. In fact, calculations presented here serve as proof of principle that this explosion mechanism may be present in many operating nuclear power plants.

Chubu Electric, the operator of the Hamaoka plant, took appropriate actions to prevent this type of explosion in their plants in the future. In fact, this accident indicates one potential preventive action from explosions for other operating plants. Ensure that a system high point is available, where mixed hydrogen and oxygen may be removed during routine operations and during off-normal accident conditions, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns and loss of coolant accidents.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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