The thermo-hydraulic analysis including reduction of the height of recirculation zone and stability of the free surface is very important in the design and optimization of ADS windowless spallation targets. In the present study, the Bernoulli equation is used to analyze the entire flow process in the target. Formulae for the height of the recirculation zone and the buffer zone are both obtained explicitly. Furthermore, numerical simulation for the heavy metal lead bismuth eutectic liquid and vapor with cavitation phase change is also performed, and a novel method to calculate the height of the recirculation zone is put forward. By comparison of the theoretical formulae and numerical results, it is clearly shown that they agree with each other very well, and the heights predicted by the two methods are both determined by their own upstream flow parameters. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.