How long would the Nuclear Power Plant last?

We have a nuclear power plant ingame now. Amazing. How long until a catastrophe though? I did some research and apparently NPPs are so safe it isnt funny anymore. However, there is one vulnerability: The coolant.

The reactor will eventually shut down on its own, but you cant switch off the fuel rods and they need to be cooled until they burn out. When the Cataclysm strikes, most of the plant workers will be zombified. Since those plants are super secure, there will likely not be much damage, unless a fire breaks out.
The cooling water will run out eventually or there might be a defect, leading to an inevitable meltdown. Apparently there are really sturdy containment buildings, so even if the fuel eats into the ground, it will take quite some time for it to breach containment. The containment building will be a radioactive hellscape, but it will not spread easily.

But the safety features did not plan for reality to break apart and a zombie apocalypse and alien invasion to happen simultaneously, right? When the triffids, mycus, or one of those skyscraper-sized kaijus hit the plant, it will be game over. Radioactive fungal spores anyone?

I bet one of you is better informed than me on the topic of nuclear safety and has some intriguing insights to share. Will the Cataclysm turn into Fallout after some time?

2 Likes

There are no nuclear power plants at every turn in the game, extremely rare underground laboratories have as a maximum, so they will maximize the total radiation background on the planet, but will not destroy the entire session at once. We already have a great soup of creatures in the game that is cooler than in Fallout, the monsters that fought yesterday merge together, and fight with the same aberations, until all this meets a robo-tank or fungus. in the game, radiation is not even considered a threat, on the contrary, it can be made useful through mutations. The most dangerous thing in the whole cataclysm at the moment is the potential of the blob, the super-fertility of mushrooms and the still unrealized yrax, 1 of 2 currently existing units of which is regarded as the most dangerous enemy in the game. more dangerous than a robo-tank is about … in fact, I do not know how much, according to Wikipedia, the danger of the Kevlar hulk = 67, whereas the yrax drone has a danger of 14007000

1 Like

There are a variety of radionuclear threats in the game, much more than irl. There are these plutonium ultra-light batteries (low risk), some nuclear-powered vehicles (last time I looked we still had them), the lab reactors you mentioned, then there is the aircraft carrier, https://github.com/CleverRaven/Cataclysm-DDA/pull/61846 (the actual nuclear power plant I mentioned, a newer PR you probably were not aware of), the hazardous waste sarcophagus (also low risk) and probably some I missed.

1 Like

In order for something to explode, it is required that the radioactive substance gain a certain mass, even in heavy batteries made of plutonium there is not even this volume, and the only objects that are truly at risk are nuclear power plants in laboratories and these structures are colossal. BUT. such colossal structures are damn rare, while the reactors in the laboratories are VERY small, 2 floors and the reactor itself is 2 by 2 on both floors. the explosion of this reactor will not harm anything. In other words, no, nothing will happen to OUR place of residence, but in countries where the atom was much more common, there is already a stupid conspiracy. that’s why I said that all this will only increase the general radiation background of the earth, which already happened when the USSR and the USA tested their nuclear bombs

1 Like

I am not talking about exploding. I am talking of the collapse of civilzation leading to a loss of coolant, so there will be an eventual meltdown in the nuclear power plant. The containment might be strong enough to keep it from reaching groundwater for a while, but then what?
Plus, as I already said, we have zombies, ferals and stuff roaming around, which can cause destruction and can disrupt the containment.

1 Like

Most modern reactor designs include a meltdown failsafe plug in the bottom of the reactor chamber, the fuel during meltdown will get hot enough to burn through into a chamber designed to neutralize the fuel reaction entirely - mixing the molten mess with enough moderator that it falls below critical.

It’d be a really toxic radioactive pool in the reactor chamber, but it’d be safely contained in the chamber, no slow eat-through of the chamber required.

2 Likes

Interesting. We do have zombies, triffids, the Mycus and more to disrupt the containment from the outside though. How long are those chambers designed to last? I assume they are sturdy and it will take more than a single zombie brute to damage its wall. Roots on the other hand can be insanely strong, but need time to grow.

Well the fuel at this point is neutralized enough that its not going to eat through anything, so without outside interference, likely forever. Spent Uranium oxide fuel is not really corrosive, in fact the fuel itself is what is dangerous when corroded as it lets off byproducts. This is not an issue when in the chamber, not until recovery crews are arriving to try and clean it up.

The durability against outside interference is going to be very design dependent, although likely relatively high as overbuilding against natural or human disasters is the name of the game. Roots are unlikely to be a problem as such a dump chamber is going to be buried deep in the plant under the reactor chamber itself, so quite far away from any root growth, not surrounded by any sort of soil, etc.

What you’re looking at in a reactor that has melted through its fail safe plug is a casting of your fissile material with beads of cobalt or some other neutron absorber embedded throughout. For reaction purposes it’s a big inert mass, though it’s obviously still emitting radiation.
Unless someone were to devote a significant amount of effort to reprocessing it, it’s not going to cause any kind of large scale problems.

Lack of power consumption from the grid would cause the reactors to shut down due to over-voltage. When this happens they will no longer produce power, but still require forced cooling. As power will not be available from the grid any more, the diesel gens will switch on. When the diesel runs out there will be a meltdown. This ofc. depends on how much diesel is stored on-site. May be a month.

Modern reactors are going to push their moderation media all the way in and at least avoid a meltdown unless there were also significant other failures.

Outside of specific failures we add to the story (which is reasonable, but not the default), reactors would just be permanently shut down.

1 Like