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Tomorrow no one shows up for work at the power plant, what happens? (research request)
March 15th 2012 | Me

Posted on 03/15/2012 1:16:25 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg

I am working on a story and in the story people don't show up for work anywhere including the power plants (electrical generation).

So what happens? For instance will a Nuke plant shut down safely if no one shows up ever again or will the plant become unstable after a time with no human supervision and it would go into meltdown and/or releases some form of nuclear exhaust? If so what are we talking here? China Syndrome or something like the what happened in Japan after the quake?

A coal fired plant or a gas fired plant I would surmise would just cease to function once the fuel ran out. Of course I understand once you get a couple of plants offline then the grid would start reacting and I guess it would cause a blackout like we had a few years back.

But what would happen at the plants themselves with no one there to react to a demand for more power? Would such cause the plants still running to try and take up the slack? If so when they tried to keep up could it cause them to work too hard and cause explosions?

I figure Hydro plants would just keep on going till the turbines burnt up unless there are automatic relays that shuts them down if the load becomes to heavy...

How long could the grid stay active without human supervision? Are we talking hours or days or weeks?

This is research for a story so any help is greatly appreciated, first hand knowledge or links on the web or good books and movies are all appreciated!


TOPICS: Books/Literature; Society
KEYWORDS: bookresearch
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I figure most plants wouldn't be a problem if they don't have human supervision and would eventually shut down without catastrophic events such as explosions. But Nuke plants I surmise are a different animal because IIRC those rods need water and if no human ever shows up again eventually that water is going to dissipate and I know that ain't a good thing.
1 posted on 03/15/2012 1:16:28 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg
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To: Mad Dawgg

I think the Japanese answered the question about the Nuclear plant about a year ago.


2 posted on 03/15/2012 1:19:27 PM PDT by Johnny B.
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To: Mad Dawgg

E-Gen plants have human supervision 24/7. To “not show up to work in the morning” would not make sense unless the crew on-shift purposely left their posts.

I would think that if you are looking at a Galt-like situation, the employees would safely shut it down prior to leaving.


3 posted on 03/15/2012 1:19:51 PM PDT by Cletus.D.Yokel (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Alterations - The acronym explains the science.)
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To: Mad Dawgg

A bunch of illegals show up.


4 posted on 03/15/2012 1:20:35 PM PDT by Berlin_Freeper
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To: Mad Dawgg

More like the computers would shut down the reactor.


5 posted on 03/15/2012 1:22:41 PM PDT by CodeToad (I'm so right-wing if I lifted my left leg I'd go into a spin.)
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To: Mad Dawgg

This is TEOTWAWKI stuff.

The scariest thing I ever heard was talked about on Coast to Coast one evening.

All nuclear plants are required to have the ability to generate (external) power for at least 8 hours if they shut down or go off the grid. Because they need to keep pumping cooling water in until they can at least get the fuel rods withdrawn and secured.

Otherwise, we get like what happened in Japan.

OK, so far, no biggie.

Problem is most plants, no matter what, are pretty much on their own after 30 hours or so.

The real problem is the entire power grid depends on these large (90KV to 150KV) transformers.
One decent solar storm could knock out a couple hundred of these across the grid, normally there are about 3,000 online.

And we have zero backups of these transformers. Or so close to zero, it might as well be zero.

So a decent solar storm or EMP, and we have probably less than 30 hours before we have not just one event like Japan, but maybe 50 or 100 all happening at the exact same time.


6 posted on 03/15/2012 1:26:02 PM PDT by djf (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2801220/posts)
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To: Mad Dawgg

what happened to the prior shiftwhen the next shift failed to show?? Did they walk out without shutting down the plant, fleeing like crazy lest their irresponsible act of abandoning a functioning nuclear plant overtake their escape? Or walking zombie-like without a care in the world? Or did they die like in a neutron bomb? What happens when a neutron bomb hits a nuclear plant?


7 posted on 03/15/2012 1:29:27 PM PDT by DannyTN
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To: CodeToad

The most likely scenario would be that the power plant staff would shut the plant down in an orderly and safe fashion before they left. Management would likely step in and try to do it themselves if there was a walkout. A third alternative would be to find a competent contractor to do it. Plans b and c would be risky alternatives, at least at my power plant


8 posted on 03/15/2012 1:30:48 PM PDT by be-baw (still seeking)
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To: Cletus.D.Yokel
"I would think that if you are looking at a Galt-like situation, the employees would safely shut it down prior to leaving."

No, the situation is people will not be at the plant period. There won't be an orderly shutdown they just are not there for whatever reason.

Can a nuke plant shutdown safely under automation? And IIRC those rods can't be shutoff they still are hot and water is used to keep them from overheating if the water goes then the problems start. (At least that is how I understand it.) So even if the plant shuts of generation there is still the problem of the rods. I am guessing eventually the water dissipates without human supervision.

9 posted on 03/15/2012 1:31:20 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg
A year or so ago, there was a superb story on Japanese television as to what would happen if humans suddenly disappeared from the earth.

Some systems had only hours to go kerplop. The New York subways would be flooded within four days. The power grid would shut down and, in some cases, start combusting within a week.

House dogs and most other pets would not survive. Cats, on the other hand, would do just fine. Those not quick enough to catch mice and squirrels would just switch to moles and birds.

Within 40 years, windows would mostly fall out of buildings. Glass is a liquid, after all. Within a century, highways and streets would be overgrown with grass. Undulates would thrive as would their predators.

After 10,000 years, only a handful of man made edifices would even be recognizable, including Mount Rushmore (minus the noses) and pyramids of Egypt.

Biggest news-- none of the real scientists or computer models would or could predict climate changes in the earth because such changes were largely outside the control of man. Interesting stuff.

10 posted on 03/15/2012 1:31:36 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: Mad Dawgg

Who is John Galt?


11 posted on 03/15/2012 1:34:00 PM PDT by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously, you won't live through it anyway)
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To: Mad Dawgg

I think they dealt with this in the “Life after People” series on the History channel. Rather chilling.


12 posted on 03/15/2012 1:35:41 PM PDT by Thorliveshere
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To: Vigilanteman

“Glass is a liquid, after all.”

No, it’s not. If it was there wouldn’t be well-shaped glassware thousands of years old. The “old windows are thicker at bottom ‘cuz thy flowed” is BS - panes were made and installed that way back when.


13 posted on 03/15/2012 1:38:06 PM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals: http://abuckaplate.blogspot.com/)
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To: Mad Dawgg

Mister Burns would have to build a robot and steal some poor bastards brain. And Moe would be victimized. Again.


14 posted on 03/15/2012 1:38:06 PM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com (nobody gives me warheads anyway))
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To: Vigilanteman
"The power grid would shut down and, in some cases, start combusting within a week."

This is the info I keep finding but rarely with attribution just a statement saying power grid would last no more than a week without supervision and even less if say a lightning strike took out part of the grid in a large urban area. A heavy draw to replace the downed plant would cause demand to shoot up on the remaining power generation plants and cause a cascade effect like happened a few years back.

15 posted on 03/15/2012 1:39:14 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Cletus.D.Yokel

Scenario: “everybody out! Now! Vertical or horizontal, you choose!”
For fiction, situations can be invented as needed.


16 posted on 03/15/2012 1:39:52 PM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals: http://abuckaplate.blogspot.com/)
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To: Mad Dawgg

I work in the utility industry and I often wonder the same thing. Imagine when the economy gets so bad and government handouts become so large that going to work stops making sense, especially if you have a dangerous and physically demanding job like working in a power plant.

Would Obamunist KGB (DHS)come to my house to force me back to work at gunpoint? Would they nationalize me into the Army? Would they just ignore my anti-communist past and let me join the Party, becoming a low-level apparatchik as long as I play along and keep my mouth shut?


17 posted on 03/15/2012 1:40:43 PM PDT by Bryanw92 (The solution to fix Congress: Nuke em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure!)
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To: Mad Dawgg

NEVER FEAR - Homer will be there ...

18 posted on 03/15/2012 1:41:06 PM PDT by Lmo56 (If ya wanna run with the big dawgs - ya gotta learn to piss in the tall grass ...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

Automatic systems will trip fossil fuel plants offline once things go out of whack. Nukes? They trip offline too. After they trip - that is where I don’t know.


19 posted on 03/15/2012 1:47:15 PM PDT by impimp
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To: Mad Dawgg

The Federal Government steps in and eventually takes control of the power plant-—immediately if we are talking about a nuclear reactor.

Cheers


20 posted on 03/15/2012 1:52:05 PM PDT by DoctorBulldog (Obama Sucks!!!)
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To: Mad Dawgg

For your problem to occur there would need to be a huge disaster on the order that nothing would really matter anyway.


21 posted on 03/15/2012 1:55:21 PM PDT by mountainlion (I am voting for Sarah after getting screwed again by the DC Thugs.)
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To: DoctorBulldog
"The Federal Government steps in and eventually takes control of the power plant-—immediately if we are talking about a nuclear reactor."

No the scenario is No One shows up. No government No army no one period.

And the reason isn't important because the research I need is what happens to the prospective plants?

I've read coal fired plants take the most human intervention because usually coal is manipulated onto conveyors but dozers and loaders operated by humans.

Gas Fired plants rely on the gas pressure staying constant and from what I've read such gets shaky fast if the electric grid becomes unstable. Hydro is Fine as long as the water level of the dam stays stable. And nukes are the wildcard.

One of the things I am not sure on is lets say we get a cascade and things start shutting down can a plant automatically disconnect from the grid and still give local power generation. I think such is a possibility say if you wanted to keep power generation going to emergency services like hospitals and police and such. Anyone know if such is possible?

22 posted on 03/15/2012 2:00:48 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

I don’t have any power plant experience, but I’ve worked in and around the oil patch for 30 years and based upon that experience I’d offer the following:
1) Coal fired plants wouldn’t last a week without human attention. The fuel doesn’t walk there by itself; it’s delivered by rail car and there’s a constant process of unloading, storing, positioning, etc. The feeders require daily inspection, calibration, repair and replacement. Pretty labor intensive stuff I’d imagine.
2) Natural gas plants would go on for quite a while. I would think their problem would be turbine surge issues that would eventually, i.e., within a month or so, cause them to “trip” out of service. They also have cooling issues. And if compressors are involved.....that’s just another weak link although that probably isn’t an issue.
3) I don’t understand the process entirely but I’d think that there has to be some degree of daily input into the volume of electricity being produced. From what I’ve read about “the grid” its managed at central “drain” monitoring sites where they’re monitoring usage along the grid at the consumption points and constantly having to balance input such that if one location, (city) is at peak draw, the managers have to order up additional electricity from other parts of the grid. So, it sounds like they’re making calls to various power plants around the system to produce more, or less depending upon the need to move more available power from one segment of the grid to another.

Here’s the real deal however; in our “prepper” classes, its become apparent that when the SHTF, one of the first things people will need to do is locate and go to their nearest area power plant and see if it can be brought back on-line. The “locals” just aren’t going to sit in the dark for weeks on end without attempting to a) findsome one who knows how to keep the plant on-line, or how to get the plant back online.

The Nuke plants are simply a disaster waiting to happen. Unless everyone were beamed off the orb, the Feds would dispatch the Army Corp. of Engineers to take the Nuke plants offline. Hopefully they can before the melt down.


23 posted on 03/15/2012 2:02:43 PM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: Mad Dawgg

From Nigeria:

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-235714581/phcn-strike-military-engineers.html


24 posted on 03/15/2012 2:05:37 PM PDT by DoctorBulldog (Obama Sucks!!!)
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To: ctdonath2
I looked it up and you're right.

I guess the proper way to phrase it is that "Glasses" are amorphous solids, that is, they don't have a regular shape.

Therefore, while they have properties in common with liquids, but are not liquids. The flow effect of glass may be observed in the lower grades of glass, but not in the higher grades of crystallized glass.

FWIW, the program did not state whether the glass fall out over time was due to any flow or simply a deterioration over time of the grout, sealants or whatever was holding the glass in place or of the glass itself. It was simply my assumption. Sorry.

25 posted on 03/15/2012 2:07:00 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: Mad Dawgg

That’s definitely possible depending on the size of the city/town/village your talking about. It would be near impossible for a mega-city like L.A.; for smaller towns, its doable if you know where your plant is. Its all about knowing the switching system. The smaller the town, the simpler the “routing” or “switching”. And, from what I’ve read, that’s one of the more difficult tasks; the optimum situation is to partially power up, then do the routing and “blink” areas back on slowly rather than power up everything which causes havoc.


26 posted on 03/15/2012 2:07:57 PM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: Vigilanteman

Just correcting a pet peeve.

I’d expect sealant deterioration and simple random breakage over time. Lack of repairs accelerate adjacent deterioration.


27 posted on 03/15/2012 2:12:56 PM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals: http://abuckaplate.blogspot.com/)
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To: Rich21IE
"the Feds would dispatch the Army Corp. of Engineers to take the Nuke plants offline. Hopefully they can before the melt down."

OK but let us say the Fed isn't operating and the Army Corp. of Engineers ain't answering the phone. Can a nuke plant shut down safely automatically AND remain safe after such? Water is vital to keep those rods from overheating. Can that water be maintained indefinitely or will it dissipate over time?

28 posted on 03/15/2012 2:15:06 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

I used to work for ge. If I get a chance I will reply later with more information.


29 posted on 03/15/2012 2:16:12 PM PDT by Fellow Traveler
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To: Mad Dawgg

I used to work for ge. If I get a chance I will reply later with more information.


30 posted on 03/15/2012 2:16:36 PM PDT by Fellow Traveler
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To: Fellow Traveler
"I used to work for ge. If I get a chance I will reply later with more information."

Awesome!

31 posted on 03/15/2012 2:17:55 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

Garrett Morris would clean up the reactor room.


32 posted on 03/15/2012 2:24:29 PM PDT by kingcanuteus
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To: djf
All nuclear plants are required to have the ability to generate (external) power for at least 8 hours if they shut down or go off the grid. Because they need to keep pumping cooling water in until they can at least get the fuel rods withdrawn and secured.

To shut down a nuclear reactor you insert neutron absorbing control rods. You do not remove the fuel rods. After the control rods are inserted the fission reaction is quenched but radioactive decay continues to release heat (not at the level of full power output) which necessitates maintaining a flow of cooling water.

That is only one problem, there are "spent" fuel rods, stored on site in a water filled pool. The spent rods are still undergoing radioactive decay and are releasing heat so the pool needs to be kept at level well above the stored rods. The worst release of radioactive material at Fukushima came from the fuel storage pools when the water level dropped below the rods, which melted their casings and released decay products along with some plutonium to the air.

Regards,
GtG

33 posted on 03/15/2012 2:24:43 PM PDT by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: Mad Dawgg

FWIW:The coal plant near me would be dead as soon as the conveyer feeding the grinding house was empty and the dust hopper exhausted.
From the last bucket of coal dumped on the conveyer, to the impeller fans blowing just air into the furnace without coal dust: 20mins.
Was there last time it was shut down.


34 posted on 03/15/2012 2:28:01 PM PDT by moose07 (The truth will out, one day.)
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To: moose07
Yeah I can see where the coal powered plants would be dead the quickest. Those suckers must eat coal like Rosie O’Donnell munches donuts.
35 posted on 03/15/2012 2:34:18 PM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

So what you are saying is that we need to have trained non-Christians available to take over operations for critical infrastructure components in the event of the rapture.

Because the Rapture is the ultimate in disaster planning.


36 posted on 03/15/2012 2:35:49 PM PDT by DannyTN
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To: Mad Dawgg

Watch that show -Life after People-. They went over the Hoover dam in detail.


37 posted on 03/15/2012 2:40:54 PM PDT by nixonsnose (Let's see all you lawyers argue your way out of hell.)
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To: Bryanw92

Probably yes to all of your questions. They would go as far as necessary toward the North Korean model. Work to eat. Work to see your family. Work in a reeducation camp until you die from the reeducation.


38 posted on 03/15/2012 2:43:21 PM PDT by Truth29
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray

Scram!

I knew that!

;-)

Trouble is, even after an event and a successful scram, as you say the heat continues to build up. Without some kind of intervention, it will eventually start to lose the internal support structures and probably go critical again.


39 posted on 03/15/2012 2:50:58 PM PDT by djf (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2801220/posts)
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To: Mad Dawgg
Dinorwig power stn
You might find this interesting.
40 posted on 03/15/2012 2:53:42 PM PDT by moose07 (The truth will out, one day.)
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To: Mad Dawgg
A coal fired plant or a gas fired plant I would surmise would just cease to function once the fuel ran out. Of course I understand once you get a couple of plants offline then the grid would start reacting and I guess it would cause a blackout like we had a few years back.

Coal fired plants pulverize the coal to a powder about as fine as talcum powder. The powdered coal is injected into the boiler with an air blast which if you could see inside looks very much like the flame from either oil or gas. The point being there is no serious amount of unburned fuel stored in the boiler. The plant has large piles of coal on site which require someone driving a crawler tractor to move coal from the storage pile to a conveyor which loads a silo. The silo holds a supply of coal to feed the grinding mills. When the silo empties the plant shuts down.

I would guess that the working storage would be enough for an hour or two at full load. Oil fired plants might last a bit longer because the fuel comes in ready to use. Gas fired plants store no fuel at all on site and would shut down as soon as pressure dropped in the pipeline.

Last year the Discovery channel did a series on the world without people. They predicted that hydroelectric plants would continue running for (hundreds of??) years. (the power grid protects itself by isolating areas that have lost power so plants still running will not experience an overload) The failure mode was brought about by clogging of small intake pipes which bring in river water to cool the oil used to lubricate the turbine bearings. As the oil heats it trips a shut down of that unit. Eventually all the turbine generators go off line, the water level behind the dam rises to the overflow and the river continues on it's merry way. Earth dams would not last much longer but the big concrete dams may last for thousands of years before an earthquake finally destroys them.

Regards,
GtG

41 posted on 03/15/2012 2:56:20 PM PDT by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray; Mad Dawg

I was just telling my daughter about this kind of stuff in telling her that one doesn’t prepare because of Zombies. I asked her how long do you think the electrical generation plants, water plants, sewage plants, etc. will keep running if most of the people don’t show up for work.

And all it would take is a deadly flu strain to do it. Between sick folks not showing up, folks staying home to tend to their sick loved ones, and healthy folks staying home so as not to get infected - it is a likely event at some point (again) in our future. Oh - and add in the mistakes that would be made by running the thing short-handed, or the upper-level management trying to do the operator’s jobs.


42 posted on 03/15/2012 3:06:59 PM PDT by 21twelve
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To: Mad Dawgg
I cannot answer all your questions, but I know someone in the nuclear industry, who I asked. So with regards to nuclear plants, if no one showed up for work, generally things would be fine until the cooling pumps tripped (which could, and I was told would eventually happen for a variety of reasons). At this point, your only cooling would come from the natural cooling cycle of the water that was being turned to steam. This would not be enough to prevent a core meltdown, and you would get something like Fukushima. But, radiation would be kept to the containment structure unless the core melted through the concrete. In that case, you might get radioactive waste in water sources. That's a pretty rough explanation, but that's all I was given. Hope it helps.
43 posted on 03/15/2012 3:38:14 PM PDT by Drrdot
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To: Mad Dawgg

This is essentially the rapture scenario if you assume all workers are saved. This is written for pressurized water reactors. boiling water reactors fail quicker. I was going to wait till Fellow Traveler had a longer reply, but here goes:

Time Zero - People Disappear.
Loads begin to drop (manually controlled electrical equipment shuts down.

Hour One -
Loading continues to diminish somewhat, then spike as coal powered plants shut down (to the extent than automatic network switching is in place) for those areas requiring manual switching, they go dark, load drops

Hour Two - Rapid changes in system load take some units offline due to turbine overspeed trips. Some plants shut down when loss of all offsite power is detected. Diesel generators on site startup to power emergency core cooling systems. Some plants have gravity-asssited natural circulation ECCS and will shutdown but stay metallurgically intact for days to weeks.

Hours 3-6 Load cycling continues somewhat , load stabilizes below 50% as infrastructure damaged by vehicle collisions burns pit and is isolated. Plants with running functional diesel generators to make up for single lost external supplies may continue to operate. Most plants shut down when loss of all offsite power is detected. Others (e.g. Fukushima) shutdown when the supported subsystems fail. Low level releases of radioactivity are possible.

Hours 6-12 Many plants stay online. Those with offsite power available having functioning automatic feedwater and cooling water systems stay up, but loss of offsite power for ECCS and failures in water subsystems result in many more shutdowns.

Hours 12-24 Out of more than 100 nuclear power plants in US, perhaps a dozen are still on line. Those online and offline with functional offsite power and/or diesel generators have good cooling for reactor and spent fuel storage (SFS).

Day Two
All units are offline, from either loss of offsite power, or various cooling water sensor trips that would have been prevented by human activity (switch intakes, pumps, etc). Units without good offsite power are depending on the diesel generators to keep SFS and core cool.

Day Three on...
When diesel fuel runs out, they join unpowered sites in core temperature increases, fuel pool temperature increases. At about 2012 degrees Fahrenheit, zirconium in the fuel cladding & rods changes from monoclinic to tetragonal(becoming Cubic Zirconia!)and fuel rods can crack. Rods that melt tend to fall away from each other (core slump) not toward a more concentrated grouping (sorry, no China Syndrome)a result of inadvertently good design feature by engineers pointing error in the conservative direction) discovered by analyzing the TMI core. Slight releases of radioactivity to the environment, most is contained.

First Decade -
The sites heat up for a few years, perhaps the first decade, then begin to cooldown over time. Site radiation levels are stable.

First Century -
Sites are essentially overgrown and buried by blowing sand dirt and debris. Sute radiation levels are dropping slowly. The snow always melts first here each year though...


44 posted on 03/15/2012 3:47:14 PM PDT by cqnc (Don't Blame ME, I voted for the American!)
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To: Mad Dawgg

Please excuse some typos. new computer, weird keyboard.


45 posted on 03/15/2012 3:56:47 PM PDT by cqnc (Don't Blame ME, I voted for the American!)
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To: Mad Dawgg

Last one to leave, please turn off the lights.


46 posted on 03/15/2012 4:33:39 PM PDT by Libloather (The epitome of civility.)
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To: Mad Dawgg
Well lets see here it goes. There are several different types of power plants available and each will respond differently to a no human presence. I will start with the most basic unit which would be a simple cycle gas trubine. These unit are used mostly for peaking and are seldom base loaded. The age on these unit can vary from brand new to about 40 years old. Gas turbines only really came into use in the 1960's. A gas turbine will continue to run almost indefinitely as long as it has a good supply of gas. That is a key point. The units are designed to trip if they see to low a pressure on the gas. The trip would happen automatically without human intervention. The other problem I can see with a gas turbine is the generator. Most of the older generators and many of the larger generators are filled with hydrogen gas for cooling. The stator cores and generator fields have gas passages where the hydrogen flows. Hydrogen is used because it is light, cheap and a good conductor of heat. The problem with it is that it is inflammable and gets used up. A certain amount of it escapes through the oil seal and through the walls of the piping. The generators have to constantly have a source of fresh hydrogen. Typically only one or two bottles are connected at a time and depending on the generator a new one will need to be connected every day to maybe a week at most. Once the hydrogen pressure starts to drop in the generator it does not conduct enough heat out of the generator and the unit may very well alarm and trip. This process would take down all electrical generators that use hydrogen cooling, this includes all coal and nuclear units. I never worked hydro and I don't believe they use hydrogen so they might still run. The other problem with the hydrogen gas is that it requires seal oil to be maintained. Typically the seal oil system is connected as a scavenger system to the main lube oil system on a turbine. When the turbine is running it uses a shaft driven oil pump so plently of seal oil is available. During a shut dwon the auxilliary electric pumps keep the seal oil system functioning. Most installations have two AC pumps and one DC pump feed by it's own set of station batteries. In a complete shutdown only the dc pump would operate and that will quit within tfour to eight hours. Seal oil would be lost and the hydrogen gas would then escape the generator and possible catch fire.

Combined cycle(Gas turbine with the exhaust being fed to a boiler to generate steam which is then used in another turbine), Coal and Nuclear all share the same problems. Balance of plant which includes everything not related to the Boiler/reactor and turbine generator equipment is not automated very well. From what I have seen this is the most common area requiring operator intervention in the day to day operation of a power plant. This can be everything from water treatment plants , Evaporative coolers, fuel handling(Several people mentioned that coal plants are fairly operator intensive and they are right about that) and other systems. Any and all of these can have problems or need human intervention to operate correctly on a day to day basis.

Nuclear presents it's own special problems. Like all units they are designed to react automatically to dangerous situation where the response time needs to be in seconds or fractions of a second. The problme comes later the units will require some sort of operator intervention to complete safe shut down. Motors need to be started and valves operated, that sort of thing.

Trying to restart units that have been improperly shut down could be very difficult in most cases. First off station batteries would have to be recharged. Power plants use 125V DC power to run their internal relays, meters, control systems and switch gear. Without that power nothing works. If a turbine rotor is stopped in one position while it is still hot you can get a situation called rotor bow. The residual heat in the turbine collects in the top of the casing and the rotor will grow towards this heat. This causes the rotor to become unbalanced. It takes a good long while to spin out a rotor bow. A host of other issues could plauge any startup attempt. Contaminated boiler water. Plugged injectors in boilers. Tube breaks in boilers due to water slugging. I could go on and on.

One other issue exists and that is the varying system load throughout the day. Generators are all run in synch with each other. System load is balanced by dispatchers calling up the plants and asking them to raise or lower power and voltage( Really Var) output. This system is not automated to the best of my knowledge. Unbalanced systems will cause the frequency of the system to speed up or slow down. All generators have a protective relay called Volts per Hertz. Essentially this realy looks at the voltage output of the genertor and divides that by the frequency. This matters because electrical insultion has the ability to work better at higher frequency than lower frequency. For instance GE sells generators rated at 13.8kv and 60 Hz. They sell the same generator over seas and it is rated at 12.5kV and 50 Hz. Any system underfrequency will start tripping out units at about 58.5 Hz. That is a little less than 3% variance from the current load point of the system. Likewise the all generators are equipped with overspeed devices. Usually anywhere between 108 to 111 percent of rated frequncy will cause them to trip. Feel free to emial me if you have any other questions.

47 posted on 03/15/2012 8:19:06 PM PDT by Fellow Traveler
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To: Fellow Traveler; Drrdot; 21twelve; Gandalf_The_Gray; moose07; djf; nixonsnose; Rich21IE; ...
Thanks all for your responses. I got some great info AND some new sources to check out for even more info!
48 posted on 03/17/2012 6:33:27 AM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

There is a documentary on cable a few years ago, I think it was called After People, or something like that. The premise was that suddenly the earth was not populated by humans.

Anyway, I think the generators would be fine and the electricity would be running for months.

This special may be available online, or at your library. Check it out.

Sre


49 posted on 03/17/2012 6:43:03 AM PDT by Ted Grant
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To: Mad Dawgg

There is a documentary on cable a few years ago, I think it was called After People, or something like that. The premise was that suddenly the earth was not populated by humans.

Anyway, I think the generators would be fine and the electricity would be running for months.

This special may be available online, or at your library. Check it out.

Sre


50 posted on 03/17/2012 6:43:03 AM PDT by Ted Grant
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