I want to write a story about a thought experiment that I have on the other day : What kind of catastrophe will happen if an asteroid, let just say about 70 meters in diameter, penetrated Earth's atmosphere and created an airburst at the altitude of 3.6 Kilometers, directly over the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant ?

I believe the impact will flattening an area about 2000 Square Kilometers or a little less. I also did my research by read some articles about the Chernobyl Disaster, then the Kyshtym Disaster and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, but I think those aren't enough to answer my question.

So... I want to know what most likely will happen in the aftermath of the event...

Thank you for reading and answering my question :D

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding SE! Be sure to read the rules, we like focused questions but this seems to be asking 4 separate questions, see if you can get it down to one question. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Apr 20, 2020 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, why did you choose an airburst? If you really want to annihilate a reactor, wouldn't it be more effective to just hit it? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 20, 2020 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ So Tunguska over a nuclear power plant? I'm not sure it would even breach the containment. $\endgroup$
    – Aetol
    Apr 20, 2020 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ So somebody or something produces an explosion equivalent to about 30 megatons of TNT above Shanghai, killing tens of millions of people, destroying a significant part of the world's industrial infrastructure, and you are interested in the effects on a power plant? Hint: that specific power plant uses PWR and CANDU reactors, both types having the property of that the fuel loses criticality instantly if the integrity of the reactor is compromised. What you'll have is a few tons of non-critical nuclear fuel spread out in the vast disaster zone produced by the explosion. Beware of poachers. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 20, 2020 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Aetol I have read that the containment dome can survive a plane crash but this is an explosion near-equivalent to the denotation of Castle Bravo Device ! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bravo $\endgroup$
    – Mister OwO
    Apr 20, 2020 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


The Fukashima event is fairly apt as a comparison. Consider an event that happens 3.6 km over a nuclear plant and flattens 2000 km^2. What will happen mostly?

Recall the events of the tsunami. The tsunami inundated some 100's of km of coast to a distance inland of round-about a few km. So the area affected is in the general range of your incident. In the area affected by the tsunami there were 10's of thousand of people drowned. There were large numbers of people killed in other ways such as being crushed or falling from places they tried to escape the wave or from things like explosions triggered by the wave. There was gargantuan property and infrastructure damage. Entire buildings swept away. Also many thousands of vehicles picked up and dumped sometimes km away. And much of what was hit by the wave that stood up was totally clogged with salty mud.

Over hear in one city, there was a small area where a fairly low level of radiation was released. The number of people killed was round-about 5, including one guy who had a heart attack during the mitigation, and another guy who got hit when a crane accidentally dropped the item it was lifting. In comparison to the tsunami, the nuclear plant was really quite minor.

So, what will happen mostly is the destruction directly caused by the meteor.


The most devastating part of the destruction related to the power plant is that it would cause radioactive materials to get blown into the atmosphere. People, particularly those living in surrounding areas, will likely see an influx in Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) and certain cancers in the coming months and years. And that's just the power plant.

The majority of people would have died from the airburst. The shock wave from the airburst will cause even more devastation. Hurricane force winds will spread fires caused by the power plant. Haiyan County, where the Qinshan power plant is located, is right near the coast; there may be a tsunami- an additional but related disaster that would claim more lives. The disaster will forever change the landscape of Chinese economy since the damage would be in the comfortable billions and indirectly effect the economies of most other countries. The disaster will claim its place as one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.

Does this story take the Coronavirus into account? If so, China has some seriously shitty luck.

  • $\begingroup$ The COVID-19 Pandemic is not include in my story as the event of the impact start on early 2018. $\endgroup$
    – Mister OwO
    Apr 20, 2020 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ This is anecdotal but there's been a pronounced uptick in thyroid cancer in Poland in recent 10 to 20 years. Some people associate it with radioactive iodine from Chernobyl fallout. $\endgroup$
    – jaskij
    Apr 20, 2020 at 21:35

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