WI: Chernobyl Thermal Explosion?

I've been rewatching HBO's fantastic Chernobyl series and I just came to the part where they send the divers to open the valves beneath the reactor to release the water below to prevent a thermal explosion that would open the remaining reactors and send radioactive material in all directions, as well as level much of the surrounding area. What would be the result if this mission failed and the sand-lava reaches the bubbling pools, causing the water to instantly evaporate and creating a massive thermal explosion and spreading more radiation in Eurasia?
 
I've been rewatching HBO's fantastic Chernobyl series and I just came to the part where they send the divers to open the valves beneath the reactor to release the water below to prevent a thermal explosion that would open the remaining reactors and send radioactive material in all directions, as well as level much of the surrounding area. What would be the result if this mission failed and the sand-lava reaches the bubbling pools, causing the water to instantly evaporate and creating a massive thermal explosion and spreading more radiation in Eurasia?
I did a DBWI on this. The series isn’t realistic with its estimates of the what the blast would have yielded (actual physicists estimate it would have been around 1kt, not the megatons talked about in the show). The explosion definitely would have been enough to vaporize all the remaining reactors on site and spread particles of radioactive material high into the atmosphere for wide distribution. Plus, plumes of radioactive steam would have poured from the site for days.
 
I did a DBWI on this. The series isn’t realistic with its estimates of the what the blast would have yielded (actual physicists estimate it would have been around 1kt, not the megatons talked about in the show). The explosion definitely would have been enough to vaporize all the remaining reactors on site and spread particles of radioactive material high into the atmosphere for wide distribution. Plus, plumes of radioactive steam would have poured from the site for days.
One kiloton is still a lot, perhaps not enough to level Chernobyl but if it still breaks the remaining reactors then how bad does the spread of radiation get?
 
One kiloton is still a lot, perhaps not enough to level Chernobyl but if it still breaks the remaining reactors then how bad does the spread of radiation get?
Pretty bad. Huge swatches of Eastern Europe are going to get significant doses. The USSR is going to run out the world’s immediate supply of iodine trying to prevent cancers 20 years down the line.
 
Less deadly than you might think. It takes around 10 rem to have any detectable effect on human health. It would still kill people but not as many as you might think.
 
The biggest problem would be to stop the fires, as they can't reach it without sacrificing humans. I do believe it is going to take a lot of sacrifices to do it, but its going to take so long the long term effects are going to be much, much more significant. Imagine a bigger fire of multiple piles going on for a year, uncontrolled.

And then, there is the issue that if they manage to put out the fire with sand and boron again, like they did with that one pile, all those piles are going to sink into the ground as well, threathening the ground water. Try making a heat exchanger for that.
 
Midnight at Chernobyl is pretty chilling. One of the big concerns was that the core would melt through the foundation, hit the water table, and once that happened the radioactive effluvia would find its way to the Black Sea and eventually the oceans of the world.
 
Midnight at Chernobyl is pretty chilling. One of the big concerns was that the core would melt through the foundation, hit the water table, and once that happened the radioactive effluvia would find its way to the Black Sea and eventually the oceans of the world.
By which time the radiative material drops way below dangerous, it is a long way from the Black Sea and would mix with an almost incalculable amount of water and diluted well below any dangerous level. Hell, it might be diluted below detection after that.
 
By which time the radiative material drops way below dangerous, it is a long way from the Black Sea and would mix with an almost incalculable amount of water and diluted well below any dangerous level. Hell, it might be diluted below detection after that.
What would be detected would be the continuous geyser of highly radioactive superheated steam as the Elephant's Foot, the lava of melted fuel and reactor structure
1610813679590.png

hit groundwater
 
By which time the radiative material drops way below dangerous, it is a long way from the Black Sea and would mix with an almost incalculable amount of water and diluted well below any dangerous level. Hell, it might be diluted below detection after that.

probably in the black sea, but not before it pollutes all the area along the Dnjepr river, which flows through Kiev just so you know.
 
What would be detected would be the continuous geyser of highly radioactive superheated steam as the Elephant's Foot, the lava of melted fuel and reactor structure
View attachment 617081
hit groundwater

it would cool down from the water, not keep on causing steam. Contact is worse enough. It might have stopped before it hit the ground water anyway, despite the heat exchanger. But once there is contact, there is contact.
 
probably in the black sea, but not before it pollutes all the area along the Dnjepr river, which flows through Kiev just so you know.
The amount of radioactive material was not infinite and much of it would remain underground. Not all of the water would flow into the river. When it flowed into the river there is an awful lot of water it is going to be mixed in with. We are talking a major river not a small stream, so it is going to be very diluted. It is extremely unlikely that the amount would amount to giving off 10 rem a year.
 
The amount of radioactive material was not infinite and much of it would remain underground. Not all of the water would flow into the river. When it flowed into the river there is an awful lot of water it is going to be mixed in with. We are talking a major river not a small stream, so it is going to be very diluted. It is extremely unlikely that the amount would amount to giving off 10 rem a year.

well i'm not sure how big(heavy) the corium pile was, but wouldn't it at least consistently pollute the water of the Dnjepr river all the way to Kiev for years if contact was made? I'm not saying its going to be a whole lot, but pollution you don't want to live near.

I thought that was the problem, that they made this corium lava and made it heavy enough that it was just melting downwards rapidly. And i believe the piles of the other reactors were bigger.

perhaps we're comparing it too much with the pollution going on in the air from the fire though. That spread really far.
 
Dying 20 years later from cancer is still being killed by the disaster.
This is counting cancer. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings along with the data from Chernobyl (It has been far longer than 20 years since then and should have long showed up in statistics) puts it at 10 rem even long term.
 
The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings
Airburst, no fallout

Area with real fallout from ground bursts. from the wiki

From 1951 – mid-1962, the Nevada Test Site (NTS) was a primary site used for both surface and above-ground nuclear testing, with 86 tests at or above ground level, and 14 other tests underground, all of which involved releases of significant amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

In the 1950s, people who lived in the vicinity of the NTS were encouraged to sit outside and watch the mushroom clouds that were created by nuclear bomb explosions. Many were given radiation badges to wear on their clothes, which were later collected by the Atomic Energy Commission to gather data about radiation levels.

In a report by the National Cancer Institute, released in 1997, it was determined that the nearly ninety atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) left high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels, Ebq) across a large area of the continental United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957.[17] The National Cancer Institute report estimates that doses received in these years are estimated to be large enough to produce 10,000 to 75,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S.[18][19] A 1999 review of the 1997 report considered that their estimates of collective doses were in "good agreement" and "should provide confidence that the NCI estimate is not grossly under or over the actual value."[20][21] A 2006 report, published by the Scientific Research Society, estimates that about 22,000 additional radiation-related cancers and 2,000 additional deaths from radiation-related leukemia are expected to occur in the United States because of external and internal radiation from both NTS and global fallout.[9] A 2010 report evaluating data on thyroid cancer incidence from 1973 to 2004 also supports a relationship between exposure from fallout and increased thyroid cancer incidence
. [22]
 
Well, the exclusion zone is no longer just a patchwork of spots with high radiation but this one really big area that's pure radiation. Ground nuclear explosions are serious business. Expect an insane amount of cancers. In addition to Pripyat and Chernobyl, Gomel and maybe even Kiev will be rendered uninhabitable until we figure out a way to speed up nuclear decay.

A silver lining is that there will probably be more research in how to speed up decay, because it's in nobody's interest to have a huge swath of Europe sit uselessly.
 
Airburst, no fallout

Area with real fallout from ground bursts. from the wiki

From 1951 – mid-1962, the Nevada Test Site (NTS) was a primary site used for both surface and above-ground nuclear testing, with 86 tests at or above ground level, and 14 other tests underground, all of which involved releases of significant amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

In the 1950s, people who lived in the vicinity of the NTS were encouraged to sit outside and watch the mushroom clouds that were created by nuclear bomb explosions. Many were given radiation badges to wear on their clothes, which were later collected by the Atomic Energy Commission to gather data about radiation levels.

In a report by the National Cancer Institute, released in 1997, it was determined that the nearly ninety atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) left high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels, Ebq) across a large area of the continental United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957.[17] The National Cancer Institute report estimates that doses received in these years are estimated to be large enough to produce 10,000 to 75,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S.[18][19] A 1999 review of the 1997 report considered that their estimates of collective doses were in "good agreement" and "should provide confidence that the NCI estimate is not grossly under or over the actual value."[20][21] A 2006 report, published by the Scientific Research Society, estimates that about 22,000 additional radiation-related cancers and 2,000 additional deaths from radiation-related leukemia are expected to occur in the United States because of external and internal radiation from both NTS and global fallout.[9] A 2010 report evaluating data on thyroid cancer incidence from 1973 to 2004 also supports a relationship between exposure from fallout and increased thyroid cancer incidence
. [22]

That was 90 tests not one incident and those explosions were huge (chemical explosions are nowhere near as powerful as nuclear ones) and most of material would be close to the explosion as a result.
 
Well, the exclusion zone is no longer just a patchwork of spots with high radiation but this one really big area that's pure radiation. Ground nuclear explosions are serious business. Expect an insane amount of cancers. In addition to Pripyat and Chernobyl, Gomel and maybe even Kiev will be rendered uninhabitable until we figure out a way to speed up nuclear decay.

A silver lining is that there will probably be more research in how to speed up decay, because it's in nobody's interest to have a huge swath of Europe sit uselessly.

It is physically impossible to have a nuclear power plant have a nuclear explosion. What you get is a hydrogen gas explosion. That is like comparing a small firecracker with a large room full of dynamite. You can't speed up decay short of bombarding the material with neutrons and creating less stable isotopes. The half life is what it is and can't be sped up.
 
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Airburst, no fallout

Area with real fallout from ground bursts. from the wiki

From 1951 – mid-1962, the Nevada Test Site (NTS) was a primary site used for both surface and above-ground nuclear testing, with 86 tests at or above ground level, and 14 other tests underground, all of which involved releases of significant amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

In the 1950s, people who lived in the vicinity of the NTS were encouraged to sit outside and watch the mushroom clouds that were created by nuclear bomb explosions. Many were given radiation badges to wear on their clothes, which were later collected by the Atomic Energy Commission to gather data about radiation levels.

In a report by the National Cancer Institute, released in 1997, it was determined that the nearly ninety atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) left high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels, Ebq) across a large area of the continental United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957.[17] The National Cancer Institute report estimates that doses received in these years are estimated to be large enough to produce 10,000 to 75,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S.[18][19] A 1999 review of the 1997 report considered that their estimates of collective doses were in "good agreement" and "should provide confidence that the NCI estimate is not grossly under or over the actual value."[20][21] A 2006 report, published by the Scientific Research Society, estimates that about 22,000 additional radiation-related cancers and 2,000 additional deaths from radiation-related leukemia are expected to occur in the United States because of external and internal radiation from both NTS and global fallout.[9] A 2010 report evaluating data on thyroid cancer incidence from 1973 to 2004 also supports a relationship between exposure from fallout and increased thyroid cancer incidence
. [22]
Iodine 131 has a half-life of 8 days. Wait a few months, and less than 0.01% of it is left. People can take precautions or evacuate temporarily to avoid it. The problem in Nevada was probably Johnrankin's point about 90 tests rather than just a single incident, plus a total lack of precautions.
 
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