AHC/WI: American Chernobyl-style disaster

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.
 
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.
 
It wouldn't be Chernobyl, but an accident/mishap in the Manhattan project would not be out of the question.
 
@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.

It wouldn't be Chernobyl, but an accident/mishap in the Manhattan project would not be out of the question.
Too small. Only in Chernobyl, reactor melted down and endangered tens of millions people. Smaller accident would has smaller political ramifications.
 
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.
Didn´t once a nuke went loose ?
 
Didn´t once a nuke went loose ?
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.
 

Anderman

Donor
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, 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.
 
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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.
 
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.
 
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.
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.
 
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.
I thought about accident happenning during second half of the Cold War (1960s, 1970s, 1980s).

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.
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.
 
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.
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.
 
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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, there is debate as to how much graphite actually burned. In any case, graphite's flammability or lack thereof 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.
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.
 
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.
 
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