AHC/WI: American Chernobyl-style disaster

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Shahanshah of Xsassa, May 22, 2019.

  1. Shahanshah of Xsassa King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Emperor of Persia

    Joined:
    May 17, 2019
    Location:
    ATL Imperial Persia
    With a PoD no earlier than 1933, create situation in which United States of America suffers accident similar to OTL Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Third Riech can not exist beyond 1940s in this scenario (no Nazi-victory ideas). Bonus, if it will be Graphite-moderated boiling water reactor.
     
  2. Archduke Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Without the U.S. undergoing massive political changes that lead to massive incompetence and corruption, I just don't see Chernobyl being plausible in the U.S. Chernobyl is the worst nuclear accident ever (tbf it's not nearly as bad as people make it out to be) for a reason. It required extraordinary circumstances for it to occur and a culture of fear and corruption. The only other nuclear disaster that from a technical standpoint was anywhere near Chernobyl was Fukuskima, which required a very destructive tsunami. And Fukushima has resulted in 1 radiation/cleanup casualty. That should offer some perspective.
     
    Wash likes this.
  3. Mark E. Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Location:
    Forgottonia, USA
    It wouldn't be Chernobyl, but an accident/mishap in the Manhattan project would not be out of the question.
     
  4. Shahanshah of Xsassa King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Emperor of Persia

    Joined:
    May 17, 2019
    Location:
    ATL Imperial Persia
    @Archduke

    Circumstances for Chernobyl's reactor to explode and meltdown were extraordinary even for the Soviet Union - if it did not happen, it would be regarded as close to ASB by alternate AH.com members. But if it did happen, it could happen everywhere in the world. 1933 is enough to create more corrupt US with less security protocols for the nuclear energy. I think that US could do some research into reactor similar to RMBK.

    Too small. Only in Chernobyl, reactor melted down and endangered tens of millions people. Smaller accident would has smaller political ramifications.
     
    riskyrofl, Eyrtxd, TheKutKu and 2 others like this.
  5. Nivek Resident Videogame Expert

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
    Location:
    Santa Marta,Magdalena,West Venezuela
    Detroit or three mile Island goes full meltdown?
     
  6. Byzantion Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2013
    Location:
    Forum Romanum, Suburra
    Didn´t once a nuke went loose ?
     
  7. Shahanshah of Xsassa King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Emperor of Persia

    Joined:
    May 17, 2019
    Location:
    ATL Imperial Persia
    Reactor is vastly more powerful than a nuke. If Soviets nuked by accident Pripets, it would have effects only on local population (depending on a type of detonation and winds). With a reactor going into meltdown, they could contaminate half of the continent - fortunately it was averted by a team that worked on a clean-up after the accident.
     
    Antonio the Komnenoi likes this.
  8. Anderman Donor

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2010
    A nuclear Reactor doesn´t explode like a atomic bomb. If it could there wouldn´t a Reactor building left in Chernobyl.
    The Reactor couldn´t be shut down in the right time so the increased pressure lead to bursting of the pressure vessel and the pressurized water turnes into steam aka a steam explosion not a nuclear explosion.
     
    Shahanshah of Xsassa likes this.
  9. sdgottsch Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2017
    Shahanshah, is your intention for us to provide a situation where a nuclear disaster occurs during the 1940's? To answer the question, it is impossible unless your situation incorporates a vision of the world where they are building nuclear power plants and in that case you need to move your dates to the 1950s.
    Here is the list of world reactors and when they started: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors and then look at the dates...1950's are the earliest

    The only option you may want to consider is a catastrophic issue happens at the Hanford Site (105-B reactor) during Manhattan Project but that site was remote as well.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2019
    jsb likes this.
  10. SpazzReflex Induce vomiting if contacted

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2010
    Location:
    The Pit
    I am not too knowledgeable about the technical side of nuclear energy technology, but in most cases at least with the US spent fuel is kept on site, and in some cases is vulnerable to fire, and I think there is where we could see a serious disaster.
     
  11. jacobk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2015
    What you're looking for when you ask for a Chernobyl-like disaster is a graphite fire. The US went away from graphite-moderated reactors pretty quickly, so you'll need some kind of PoD there just to make the disaster possible.

    The UK had a graphite fire in one of their Magnox reactors that was only contained by what had previously been considered an absurdly overcautious set of safety devices. If you have them dodge that fire, skimp on future safety precautions, and have the design become a commercial success, then you'd have set the stage for something Chernobyl-like.
     
  12. Chris Triangle Triangulator

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    It would have still killed way more people and probably irradiated more as well. It just wouldn't have swriously contaminated the land for very long.
     
  13. Shahanshah of Xsassa King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Emperor of Persia

    Joined:
    May 17, 2019
    Location:
    ATL Imperial Persia
    I thought about accident happenning during second half of the Cold War (1960s, 1970s, 1980s).

    My intention was to explore political, scientifical and societal consquences of the reactor melting down with similar (or worse) results than in Chernobyl. So, no killing hundreds of thousands instantly, but instead contaminating large swaths of land, which then becomes uninhabitable for years.
     
    Salvador79 likes this.
  14. Chris Triangle Triangulator

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    I was under the impression that the graphite never burned at Windscale, only the metal fuel. What graphite was lost likely simply evaporated from the heat of the fire but did not really contribute much to sustaining it. If it had, then I think the fire would have kept raging when they turned the cooling fan off. A lot of people assume that because graphite is pure carbon, it burns like some kind of high grade coal. In reality, graphite is a very strange material and is extraordinarily resistant to fire even though its constituent, carbon, should thermodynamically favor combustion. Its incredible stability is why it has been used as electrodes in open air arc lamps. The only instance I have heard of graphite actually burning is at Chernobyl reactor number 4, where it was subjected to uncommonly intense external heat from recently-melted nuclear fuel. Even there, debate exists as to how much graphite actually burned. In any case, graphite's meager flammability has never actually caused any nuclear accidents and it shouldn't really be all that much more dangerous than water moderated reactors. Containment's a big deal too. If Chernobyl had had TMI's outer containment, it would have been minor and if TMI had had Chernobyl's outer containment, it would have been a lot more like Chernobyl.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    Salvador79 likes this.
  15. jacobk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2015
    I was wrong, the Windscale fire was burning uranium, per wikipedia. Honestly, that seems horrifying enough that it would get lumped in with Chernobyl if it happened in a larger installation.

    My point wasn't that graphite is particularly easy to set on fire, but that it's particularly awful if you manage to set it on fire with a nuclear reaction.
     
  16. Jono Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2016
    Location:
    Cheshire
    A warehouse containing nukes could explode. Should leave a large crater and a lot of fallout.
     
  17. Shahanshah of Xsassa King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Emperor of Persia

    Joined:
    May 17, 2019
    Location:
    ATL Imperial Persia
    Even more implausible than Chernobyl accident.
     
  18. Jono Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2016
    Location:
    Cheshire
    Well then the only option is advancing nuclear technology by 20 - 30 years and hitting the play button.
     
    Chris Triangle likes this.
  19. Chris Triangle Triangulator

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    The most likely scenario that satisfies OPs requirements is probably some loss of coolant incident at an early BWR reactor where the core melts and the containment structure is too weak to survive the hydrogen explosion. You wind up with a lot of cesium getting released.

    How the accident happens could vary from a design problem to a malfunctioning component to a maintenance oversight. Any of these could lead to an unlucky chain of events and accident. The plant in Oak Harbor Ohio had a corrosion issue that, while unlikely, could possibly could have led to this outcome.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  20. kent Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2009
    Location:
    Pleasanton California
    Ever hear of Three Mile Island?