Requiring further investigation, hydrogen explosions and fires have occurred in several operating nuclear reactor power plants. Major accidents that were affected by hydrogen fires and explosions included Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima Daiichi. Smaller piping explosions have occurred at Hamaoka and Brunsbüttel Nuclear Power Plants. This paper is the first paper in a series of publications to discuss this issue. In particular, the different types of reactors that have a history of fires and explosions are discussed here, along with a discussion of hydrogen generation in commercial reactors, which provides the fuel for fires and explosions in nuclear power plants.
Overall, this paper is a review of pertinent information on reactor designs that is of particular importance to this multi-part discussion of hydrogen fires and explosions. Without a review of reactor designs and hydrogen generation, the ensuing technical discussions are inadequately backgrounded. Consequently, the basic designs of pressurized water reactors (PWR’s), boiling water reactors (BWR’s), and pressure-tube graphite reactors (RBMK) are discussed in adequate detail. Of particular interest, the Three Mile Island design for a PWR is presented in some detail.