A steam explosion is an explosion caused by violent boiling or flashing of water or ice into steam, occurring when water or ice is either superheated, rapidly heated by fine hot debris produced within it, or heated by the interaction of molten metals (as in a fuel–coolant interaction, or FCI, of molten nuclear-reactor fuel rods with water in a nuclear reactor core following a core-meltdown). Pressure vessels, such as pressurized water (nuclear) reactors, that operate above atmospheric pressure can also provide the conditions for a steam explosion. The water changes from a solid or liquid to a gas with extreme speed, increasing dramatically in volume. A steam explosion sprays steam and boiling-hot water and the hot medium that heated it in all directions (if not otherwise confined, e.g. by the walls of a container), creating a danger of scalding and burning.
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