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crunchyblanket
09-29-2013, 01:04 PM
So, let's say that years into the future, Britain decides it's going to make good on its sporadic promises of nuclear power. A nuclear power station is built near, let's say, Barrow-In-Furness (feel free to suggest alternatives - I have no idea what kind of prerequisites exist for building a nuclear power station, but I hear West Cumbria has been earmarked for a future one.)

Let's say that a terrorist attack (rogue cyborgs, woo) causes an explosion, resulting in an exclusion zone - I've read that the Chernobyl exclusion zone (covering 2600km) was quite arbitrary

As I said above, I don't know a lot about nuclear power and the resultant fallout - presumably, any nuclear plant in the UK would be smaller than the one in Chernobyl? How large an exclusion zone would likely be set up? (and how small an exclusion zone, twelve years post-event, would I be likely to get away with as?) Any information on this subject would be useful - as it's a past event I won't be expanding on the little details too much, but an exclusion zone of some kind is necessary to the plot as it stands.

Thanks :)

cornflake
09-29-2013, 01:12 PM
So, let's say that years into the future, Britain decides it's going to make good on its sporadic promises of nuclear power. A nuclear power station is built near, let's say, Barrow-In-Furness (feel free to suggest alternatives - I have no idea what kind of prerequisites exist for building a nuclear power station, but I hear West Cumbria has been earmarked for a future one.)

Let's say that a terrorist attack (rogue cyborgs, woo) causes an explosion, resulting in an exclusion zone - I've read that the Chernobyl exclusion zone (covering 2600km) was quite arbitrary

As I said above, I don't know a lot about nuclear power and the resultant fallout - presumably, any nuclear plant in the UK would be smaller than the one in Chernobyl? How large an exclusion zone would likely be set up? (and how small an exclusion zone, twelve years post-event, would I be likely to get away with as?) Any information on this subject would be useful - as it's a past event I won't be expanding on the little details too much, but an exclusion zone of some kind is necessary to the plot as it stands.

Thanks :)

Your inciting incident (I realize it's in the past in your story - I mean for the stuff you're talking about), is confusing. What kind of explosion? Caused by doing what and what exploded? That's relevant to what'd happen afterwards. It's hard to cause a leak at a power plant doing something like that, to say the least.

The exclusion zone should depend on what's going on, the level of material where, how, etc., what it is, etc., etc. Twelve years isn't going to do anything though. It should be just the same as it was when it was set up.

There's a bunch of stuff on Indian Point online that might help. It's a nuclear power plant like 30 miles or so from NYC. There's always been controversy over it, hence there are a lot of articles, debates, you can find the evacuation plans, maps, lots of things.

crunchyblanket
09-29-2013, 01:38 PM
Your inciting incident (I realize it's in the past in your story - I mean for the stuff you're talking about), is confusing. What kind of explosion? Caused by doing what and what exploded? That's relevant to what'd happen afterwards. It's hard to cause a leak at a power plant doing something like that, to say the least.



Hah, yeah, that's the other thing. I'm not entirely sure what the inciting incident should actually be. I'd really like to tie it in to an act of terrorism (long story short: "cyborgs" created to supercede human workforce break programming, demand rights, splinter groups start blowing things up to make a point. Cyborg workers ran the nuclear plant and cause some kind of explosion/accident.)

Possibly penetration of the reactor core, causing meltdown?

Cath
09-29-2013, 02:35 PM
The UK has emergency planning departments and plans which defined how incidents such as this would be handled. Some are online (e.g. This (http://publications.1fife.org.uk/uploadfiles/publications/c64_MajorEmergencyPlanVersion17.pdf) from the area I used to work). You might want to hunt around online for something in an area with a nuclear power station that might give the answers you need.

usuallycountingbats
09-29-2013, 02:55 PM
Hah, yeah, that's the other thing. I'm not entirely sure what the inciting incident should actually be. I'd really like to tie it in to an act of terrorism (long story short: "cyborgs" created to supercede human workforce break programming, demand rights, splinter groups start blowing things up to make a point. Cyborg workers ran the nuclear plant and cause some kind of explosion/accident.)

Possibly penetration of the reactor core, causing meltdown?

This scenario is actually an awful lot easier to use to create an inciting incident than some kind of external terrorist attack.

At Chernobyl, essentially what happened (and I am simplifying here because I studied more about the after effects than the event itself), was the engineers wondered what would happen if you took the control rods out of the core. It was an experiment to see what would happen if the electricity failed - could the reactor still function on low power.

This caused the core to overheat, and then when they pressed the emergency shutdown, it caused the displacement of coolant and so the reactivity was concentrated in the lower part of the core. Then a series of explosions occurred.

The BBC have a really good time analysis of what happened here. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/guides/456900/456957/html/nn2page1.stm)

The explosions caused a radioactive 'plume' to be discharged (and now we're into the bit I know more about!) - this was affected by the wind, and therefore the question you're asking about exclusion zones is greatly affected by the prevailing weather. You need to look up the dominant wind directions and speeds to have any idea of how far out harmful levels of radiation will reach. Don't forget, the incident at Chernobyl was initially covered up and denied - it was only because Scandinavian planes (I want to say Swedish but that might be wrong) started to detect high levels of radiation that the Government in Moscow came clean - that was several (three I think) days after the incident. There are parts of Scandinavia which are still affected by it today - farms with strict controls on what they can produce for example.

In terms of the exclusion zone many years later, the interesting thing about Chernobyl is that the dangerously high levels of radiation only occur where the plume hit the ground - so it isn't a clear cut thing. It isn't like a neat isoline diagram which shows neat rings where it is and isn't dangerous. Effectively, there are large swathes of land where the impact was nil, and equally large swathes where it is lethal to be in there. The trouble is, you can't see where it changes. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is basically a large nature reserve, and the exclusion of humans has far outweighed the negative impact of the radiation on wildlife (though clearly I'm not saying it was a good thing!).

There is some speculation that the lack of negative impact on wildlife is down to them being much shorter lived than humans, but there is also some evidence suggesting the wildlife may have some mechanism for detecting where the highest levels of radiation are and avoiding those areas. Someone on my MSc course did their thesis on the latter hypothesis, though of course an MSc thesis doesn't take place over a long enough time scale to produce anything like the evidence you'd need to prove something so complex with so many variables.

So the short answer is, it would be perfectly feasible to have a relatively small exclusion zone in some areas, because the plume didn't touch the ground there, as long as you also made it clear that there was no contamination of the groundwater system (assuming you want to do things like have people grow crops, or use aquifers for their drinking water supply). Equally, the effects could be huge a long way out due to the wind carrying harmful radiation in the upper atmosphere. Which all means, whatever fits your story is fine I think, as long as you justify it. You could have cyborgs go in and test for the radiation boundaries for example, to work out where the plume hit the ground and where it's safe to go?

If you run a search on Google Scholar using something like 'wildlife Chernobyl exclusion zone' you'll get a whole load of papers and abstracts which talk about this stuff, and which for the most part are peer-reviewed so relatively trustworthy.

King Neptune
09-29-2013, 06:50 PM
What would cause a disaster and how large the explosions, etc. would be depend on the type of reactor involved. If you want lots of dangerous material all around, then go with a fast breeder reactor. If you want only a little than look at the early type hot water reactors. A problem with the cooling system is the easiest way to get it to blow, but the nature of the explosion would depend on the way the containment building was designed.

BDSEmpire
09-29-2013, 09:11 PM
Keep in mind that no one builds reactors like Chernobyl precisely because of the accident. Modern reactors are very difficult to mess up and the newest generation are safer still.

Sabotage from the inside makes sense but you may want to gloss over the mechanics of the event because how the cyborgs messed up the reactor is less important than the fact that it occurred.

Fun idea: Cyborgs wouldn't have much fun at a nuclear power plant. The metal in their bodies will soak up radiation like crazy and their limbs will turn brittle and crumble to pieces as they are moving around. It's not going to happen right away but it's one of the side effects of neutron bombardment on metals that aren't chemically designed to withstand radiation.

shaldna
09-30-2013, 03:35 PM
So, let's say that years into the future, Britain decides it's going to make good on its sporadic promises of nuclear power. A nuclear power station is built near, let's say, Barrow-In-Furness (feel free to suggest alternatives - I have no idea what kind of prerequisites exist for building a nuclear power station, but I hear West Cumbria has been earmarked for a future one.)

Let's say that a terrorist attack (rogue cyborgs, woo) causes an explosion, resulting in an exclusion zone - I've read that the Chernobyl exclusion zone (covering 2600km) was quite arbitrary

As I said above, I don't know a lot about nuclear power and the resultant fallout - presumably, any nuclear plant in the UK would be smaller than the one in Chernobyl? How large an exclusion zone would likely be set up? (and how small an exclusion zone, twelve years post-event, would I be likely to get away with as?) Any information on this subject would be useful - as it's a past event I won't be expanding on the little details too much, but an exclusion zone of some kind is necessary to the plot as it stands.

Thanks :)


Britian already has nuclear power facilities.

You should research places like Sellafield http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield

Or Calder Hall, or Dounreay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dounreay

King Neptune
09-30-2013, 03:47 PM
Tom Holt already played with blowing up Dounreay. It was hilarious.

Becky Black
09-30-2013, 06:40 PM
Do you mean promises to expand our use of nuclear power? Because we've already got a bunch of nuclear power stations - 9 stations and 16 reactors according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_the_United_Kingdom). The first one started operating in 1956.

Sellafield is only a reprocessing plant, rather than a power station now, but it's still the most famous nuclear site in the UK.

robjvargas
09-30-2013, 06:43 PM
There are several things about the Chernobyl reactor design that are unique to Chernobyl.

First of all, the moderator. The moderator is a material that "slows" neutrons for use within the chain reaction. Fast neutrons pass through the uranium isotope used in most reactors (including Chernobyl). Most reactors in the west use the same liquid for both coolant and moderator. Chernobyl didn't. It used water as a coolant, and graphite as a moderator.

Graphite isn't flammable, but it *does* burn under the right conditions, and that was one of the situations that caused trouble.

Another was something The Navy taught me as "alpha-t". It's a heat coefficient for the nuclear process. VERY simplified, remember that moderator? If you design your reactor with a negative alpha-t, then as temperature rises, the reflection (so to speak) of slow neutrons back into the reaction gets lowered, resulting in fewer reactions, and less heat. It's a bit of a damper against runaway reactions.

Chernobyl was designed with a positive alpha-t. Heat rose, neutrons reflected back more, not less, resulting in more heat. Here's a good rundown (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/) of the plant and its flaws. The west has never thought of this as a good idea.

NOTE: This is heavily simplified, because alpha-t isn't generally used in boiling-water reactors (they call it a void coefficient owing to different mechanics involving steam). But the base idea is the same.

So that positive heat relationship, the different moderator and collentcoolant materials, and other problems, all make Chernobyl unique. Maybe you were talking scale. That's a different discussion. But the nuclear and reactor mechanics there simply don't exist in the west in power reactors. I believe some reactors specifically for the creation of plutonium come closer.

King Neptune
09-30-2013, 09:58 PM
Yes, the only graphite moderated reactors outside the USSR were early research reactors in the U.S. under the Manhattan Project. When they got around to building permanent installations, those were all water moderated.

Alessandra Kelley
09-30-2013, 10:01 PM
When I saw the thread title I thought you were talking about the Windscale disaster.

Not much of an exclusion zone, but I understand it's still "hot" more than fifty years later...

jaksen
10-01-2013, 12:43 AM
Buy or borrow from a library one of those "Dummy books," for basic background info. There must be a 'Nuclear Power for Dummies,' or similar. That way you'll get the basic info correct - not too scientific, but accurate enough for any reader to accept.

crunchyblanket
10-06-2013, 01:28 PM
Thanks for all your help, everyone :)