I have a colony of semi-post-apocalyptic survivors who have created a deterrence scenario involving their access to both a nuclear reactor and some body(s) of water.

Ideally, I'd like the water to be the ocean, but I don't think I can justify the amount of work it would take to irradiate an entire ocean. I'm pretty sure it would take more pollution than is feasible to transport. Also, nuclear power plants aren't typically near oceans.

I got this idea from watching Chernobyl, and the body of water which was threatened in Russia was quite large. But I still don't know how large is too large, or if there's a more clever way to go about claiming an area.

In terms of the story: their deterrence scenario is essentially "we can ruin this entire plot of land so don't mess with us." The conflict is between them and a world dominating super power, so I'd really like the plot of land to be as large and long lasting as possible.

EDIT: the super power has no reason to fear the colony, they just want them to die so they can have their land. They own the rest of the world in a sort of Atlas Shrugged gone viral sort of way. They are not reliant on dirty energy (ie oil), and are not religious.

EDIT: Changed "mutual destruction" to "deterrence"

  • $\begingroup$ Irradiate Straight of Hormuz, so there is no easy way to get oil out. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Sep 10 '19 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ The stoup(s) at the Vatican basilica? Wouldn't take much $\endgroup$ – Punintended Sep 10 '19 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ I added some clarification on the super power $\endgroup$ – Seph Reed Sep 10 '19 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ water is actually a good insulator against radiation, hence why spent nuclear fuel rods are deposited at the bottom of artificial ponds. It may be more effective to use those radioactive byproducts in the creation of dirty bombs $\endgroup$ – BKlassen Sep 10 '19 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ I'm open to dirty bombs. They seem a little bit harder to trigger, but perhaps there's feasible solutions to that. I should also mention, it's not just the land the super power is worried about, but the water as well. They're very eco-minded. They want a pristine earth, minus the current human population. At the same time, they're not fanatics and can stand any level of radiation which does not make the water undrinkable. $\endgroup$ – Seph Reed Sep 10 '19 at 16:59

Humans consume only a tiny fraction of any given body of water making poisoning a natural water sources relatively inefficient. That said, the water pumping stations in small-to-mid-sized towns tend to be pretty lax in their security, and all of the water that they process goes straight into people's homes.

Insert your payload directly into the station's output to bypass biohazard detectors and filters giving your weapon both time to disperse before anyone knows what is happening, and making sure that it is not filtered out reducing its efficiency.


Polluting a body of water is a badly conceived idea when it comes to mutual assured destruction.

If you want to annihilate an enemy, you want its soldiers either immediately dead or demoralized to point of surrender. An army intoxicated by radioactive water with certain death somewhere in the future makes a nightmare of an opponent, for the simple reason that their death is sure, so they better take with them as many enemy as possible.

You have probably heard of how the US army had to struggle to conquer small islands occupied by the Japanese: that is what happens when fanaticism and certain death mix together. And polluting water goes in that direction.

  • $\begingroup$ In the context of this story, it's not so much about immediate destruction as a group of people wanting to have the world to themselves. Also, the super power is large enough that they have absolutely no worry of death regardless. They mostly just want everything to be pristine and for them alone. $\endgroup$ – Seph Reed Sep 10 '19 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @SephReed, the superpower large enough remembers me of the USA in the Vietnam war... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 10 '19 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ In the context of the story, the super power is essentially the antithesis of the USA. They're trying to destroy humanity for the sake of starting it over. They want a sort of Eden scenario, so protecting the land and water is a huge priority. Also, they can wait out the colony and let them die, so the super power is nothing but deterred. The determent is what I'm trying to deduce. $\endgroup$ – Seph Reed Sep 10 '19 at 17:20

Why aim for a body of drinking water when you can do so much damage elsewhere?

You won't get too far trying to pollute a body of water used for drinking. Aside from the near-endless security measures, it's not hard to switch from an unsafe source to a safe one. Given however that over 90% of the world's oceans are totally unexplored, you can really narrow down your target for maximum effect.

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This is a heatmap of marine shipping routes across the globe. Dumping waste at any point along these trade routes would cause your 'superpower' migraines in terms of food supply, accessibility to vital imports, scientific development, and so on. Disrupting business as usual would cause far more damage than blitzing a small to medium sized town. Many goods can't be flown out on planes, and certainly not in the quantities demanded (cars for example). A superstate that can't deliver will quickly lose followers.

If that's not for you, other suggestions of using a dirty bomb would really work as a deterrent. Do bear in mind that dirty bombs are designed to take out infrastructure, not people. You'd have more success targeting a power station than a metropolitan area (it's still a bomb though, so it really won't make a world of difference).

Happy worldbuilding!

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    $\begingroup$ This seems very logical. Why wouldn't they simply float through though? Would it not be too dilluted to matter? $\endgroup$ – Seph Reed Sep 10 '19 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ @SephReed Sure, if you told them exactly where it was they could probably draw a two mile radius and undermine your efforts. If however you were to say generally "it's around the South African coastline" then they have to assume it could be anywhere and write off the entire route. $\endgroup$ – mcRobusta Sep 11 '19 at 7:54

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