Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Bret Weinstein Trying His Hand At Apocalyptic Fiction...,

unherd |  Humans model danger based on their own experiences and those of their ancestors. Solar storms were nothing new, in 2024, but the jeopardy they posed to humanity had increased only very gradually since the last really big storm, in 1859 — the year Darwin had published The Origin of Species. That storm caught the eye of a British astronomer named Richard Christopher Carrington, who noticed unusual solar activity and linked it to the spectacular aurora that had appeared. What became known as the Carrington Event damaged telegraph systems and delivered shocks to a number of operators. Some found they could send messages even with the loss of power, because the storm had induced currents in the wires. Fascinating, but not the stuff of the nightmares, on a planet not heavily dependent on industry. And as our civilisation became overwhelmingly electrical, solar flares never produced enough harm to focus our collective attention — there was no real prelude to the event that precipitated our downfall.

In the initial weeks after the collapse, the military was tasked with a vital mission. Even dormant nuclear reactors — and their spent fuel pools — need to have cold water circulated through them constantly to prevent reactor meltdowns and devastating fuel-pool fires. Regulations required that each complex have a week’s worth of backup diesel generator fuel on hand. Many had four times that amount, but none had planned for a blackout that would last a year or more, and that is what they were facing in the best-case scenario. It fell to the Army to make sure these backup diesel generators and pumps never failed or ran dry. For six months, they accomplished that mission across all the affected reactors, with one exception.

The Army had quickly found that for most reactors, creating a defensible perimeter around the site and delivering fuel by helicopter was the most reliable approach. In the third week after the collapse, a helicopter clipped a light pole in the fog and crashed at the North Anna reactor in Virginia, spilling its fuel and sparking a devastating fire that engulfed the generators. Retardant dropped from above was sucked into the air intakes, and the combination killed the power, which remained out long enough for the reactor cores to meltdown and slump. The containment breached, forcing the site to be abandoned.

As the fuel pools boiled and ran dry, the heat from radioactive decay caused the cladding on the fuel rods to burst into flame; a plume of highly radioactive smoke rose above the site, contaminating the region and driving essential governmental functions out of Washington D.C., one of few Eastern seaboard cities that had been successfully stabilised. The danger of the radioactive fallout was kept officially quiet, but rumours spread, confirmed by those few citizens with access to battery-powered Geiger counters. This sparked a massive refugee crisis as the region’s population fled their homes, dodging precipitation, every squall now raining radioactive isotopes onto the earth below. Ultimately, the spreading collapse of civilisation would cause every nuclear reactor complex on Earth to be abandoned, guaranteeing that all of its radioactive material would escape into the environment and begin to circulate.

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