Mechanical engineering note - safety analysis of molten uranium/water interaction in the uranium foundry furnace Page: 57 of 84
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3.1.5 Shock Waves from Steam Explosions
Modeling of the shock waves induced by steam explosions is only neces-
sary if it is conceived that these would challenge the furnace integrity.
Figure 3-7 taken from (Glass, 1974) illustrates the decay of substantial
shock waves in air as the shock wave expands. A slope corresponding to a
pressure amplitude decay proportional to 1/r2 is also included for
reference and provides a reasonable assessment of the decay characteristic
for strong waves. If anything, the higher amplitude portion of the curve
decays faster than this simplified representation. If an interaction zone
size is postulated along with a maximum pressure for the interaction, this
type of decay can be applied to the Sandia FITS experiments to compare the
measured shock wave pressures in these tests with this decay characteris-
tic. Table 3-2 summarizes the experimental conditions for the FITSB
series, including the size of the test chamber in which the thermite and
water were mixed. As an interaction zone, half of the square dimension is
used as the radius for the initial calculation. Also, for the peak pres-
sure achieved in the interaction zone one half the critical pressure (-
1450 psi or 10 MPa) is used since this corresponds to a condition in which
the critical size bubble embryos equal the size for thermally dominated
bubble growth (Henry, et al., 1979). For pressures greater than this
value, the vapor cannot be produced at a pressure higher than the surround-
ing ambient. Other experiments have shown this value to be an upper bound
of the pressure that can be achieved when the system is not tightly con-
The expansion from the interaction zone out to the diameter of the
FITS vessel, 2.5 ft (0.76 m) radius, is performed following the approxima-
tion shown in Figure 3-7. Since only three different size vessels were
used in the eight experiments, only three different shock wave pressures
incident on the FITS vessel wall are calculated by this approximate method.
These are illustrated in Table 3-3 for the different experiments. As
illustrated, this technique substantially overestimates the measured pres-
sure at the FITS vessel boundary. This is not surprising since the curve
shown in Figure 3-7 is compared to a chemical explosion which is typically
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Gourdin, W H & Sze, J. Mechanical engineering note - safety analysis of molten uranium/water interaction in the uranium foundry furnace, report, August 19, 1999; California. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc622935/m1/57/: accessed March 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.