I'm trying (failing) to write a story set within the exclusion zone around a nuclear power plant incident set in the near future. The 'incident' that leads to the exclusion zone being set up isn't the story itself, but I want the 'how' to be plausible.
Modern (generation 3 and onwards?) light-water reactors seem to have a whole host of safety features that would prevent a meltdown or accidental release of radioactive particles. Containment buildings, automatic control rod insertion, backup generators and coolant pumps all make a Chernobyl-like exclusion zone coming about seem like an unlikely situation.
A natural disaster could work, but the area I have in mind as the location of the plant is tectonically stable with no history of earthquakes or tidal waves. Plus just copying what happened at Fukushima seems like being cheap. So I'd prefer to avoid going that route.
I was thinking maybe some sort of 'cyber-warfare' attack on the control systems, but I'm not sure how plausible that would be either. A lot of the safety features seem to be independent systems that kick-in with a lack of power.