2023-04-16 21:44 fic1 [permalink]
Decommissioning of a nuclear power plant takes some work. About 40 years, is a typical guess. With the nuclear infrastructure safely removed, what you end up with is a neatly secured compound with a nice connection to the power grid and maybe even an alternator that just needs some turning to keep it generating electricity. The problem with nuclear power is that those are built for quite some bit of pressure you can't readily generate with another method. Or can you? Someone thought of geo-thermal energy and calculated how deep you would need to dig to get enough high-pressure steam to put a post-nuclear alternator to work. Nobody has dug that deep before. But that doesn't mean it can't be done. A special drilling rig was built, with active water cooling to keep it from melting in the deeper layers of the Earth's crust, which could already power machinery even before the drilling was done. So, what after the drilling? Having the piping following it down the hole would already take most of the work, so there was no way to add any controlling mechanism. It wouldn't survive the heat and pressure anyway. So when the active cooling stopped, the drilling rig was supposed to fail and stop. Do you see where this is going? Much later — it turned out — at the target depth there was damage to the drill head, but the material to dig through was less dense anyway, so it was able to dig on. What was damaged was the cooling pipes. It first released some pressure from boiling water, which altered the trajectory to a direction perpendicular to the surface, and fused the inputs shut. The remaining water kept an internal flux to keep it cool enough and keep on digging. The lateral digging fused bits of harder material onto the drill face, which allowed it to penetrate the other layers of rock it passed by. Unnoticed it ended up under the ocean floor, and resurfaced under water. The cooler salt-water finally stopped its extended operation, but the funnel behind it filled up with magma that used the new conduit to release pressure. There was quite some pressure. Enough to build up as high as the water level, and a new island emerged. It took some while before people even noticed. And it took some more time before the magma flow would take the remains of the drill rig with it and spew it out of the volcano on top. Only then someone smart that recognized what it was, figured out what had happened. It did quite a bit more for us than we expected, that Drilly McDrillFace.