Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

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GotLag
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Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by GotLag » Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:25 pm

I've been thinking about how to introduce nuclear reactors in a way that doesn't just make them drop-in superior replacements for coal boilers and steam engines, and here's what I've got so far:

Nuclear reactors are in essence boilers. Reactor fuel goes in, hot water comes out. But I propose three additional mechanics for reactors to make them behave quite differently:
  1. Reactors don't heat water directly, instead they consume fuel to increase their internal buffer, which is in turn consumed to heat water. The power output can only change slowly, so if the reactor is running full-tilt and then suddenly your power consumption drops away, your reactor will begin to decrease its output but won't be able to do so fast enough, and the internal buffer will fill up, which leads to...
  2. Reactor overheat and shutdown. I see a lot of suggestions that reactors should explode or melt down, but I'm not a fan of this. Everything else in Factorio is fail-safe, it's consistent and reasonable to assume that reactors should be too. What I suggest is that when the reactor buffer fills, the reactor enters emergency shutdown state, and stops consuming fuel until its internal buffer (i.e. core temperature) drops back to 0. It should decrease over time very slowly from passive air cooling, but the best way to cool down is by pumping more water through it to consume the core heat, which leads to...
  3. Water discharge pipes or (preferably) cooling towers. These provide a drain for hot water when engines are not using enough.
Consider the following scenario:
You have a sustained power draw that suddenly falls off, for whatever reason (biter attack cuts power to a factory? bottleneck causes it to grind to a halt? end of a biter attack means your laser turrets stop firing? massive accumulator bank fills up?). Your reactor core is boiling away, but your engines are not consuming as much hot water, so the water in the reactor reaches max temperature, and not enough cold water is coming in to consume the heat being produced. The reactor drops its output, but it can't drop it fast enough, and the internal temperature rises.
At this point, a naive setup would quickly reach the cut-off temperature and shut down for however long it took to cool down to ambient temperature, and this could be quite a few minutes.
However, your setup is not naive, and uses a circuit-controlled pump to detect the increase in core heat, and start pulling hot water out of the reactor. This water goes through a cooling tower, and is injected back into the reactor (the pump that usually brings water from the offshore supply has been switched off). This continues until the temperature drops to a safe level, and then they emergency coolant pump switches off and the reactor is once more fed from the offshore supply.

All of the above would also mean that if your power demand suddenly spiked, your reactor wouldn't be able to increase fast enough to keep up with the draw, and the water temperature going to the engines would decrease. Perhaps you might build auxiliary coal boilers on the output to cover this eventuality.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by SeelenJaegerTee » Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:14 pm

It would also have been reasonable to assume that the high-tech nation Japan has its reactors under control - so I'm totally in camp meltdown.
I do however quite like the idea that nuclear reactors don't respond quickly to consumption changes.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by GotLag » Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:21 pm

I'm in camp "meltdowns aren't fun, just a pointless pain in the arse"

Japan also has serious issues with regulatory capture, which I'm assuming the Factorio builder doesn't.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by Arch666Angel » Mon Aug 22, 2016 4:17 pm

Let the reactor have a lengthy spool up time before it reaches it's maximum capacity (like 15-30 minute), if the reactor has to shut down, you need to go through the sequence again. Also I would love to have a double circulation for the cooling and working water/liquids.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by ssilk » Mon Aug 22, 2016 6:25 pm

I digged out some old post: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=12605&p=87073#p87073 Electric boiler
(where it was going around storing electric energy in form of hot water)
...
I see the future of electric energy production in Factorio in diversification: The more different types of energy you use, the more sure it is, that you have always enough.

Think to this situation: Nuclear power plant. But you cannot just turn the nuclear power on/off like steam. It takes a whil to reach it's maximum.
An much more important: It takes a while to be turned off again.

After you turn it off it takes a minute or two to produce no more energy. But where should I put all that energy into? And what happens, if I don't cool it enough? Where to use the hot water? And so on.
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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by Kevin Ar18 » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:28 pm

I am also of the camp that nuclear needs to play differently for it to be fun:

Nuclear should be vulnerable to biter damage.
* If biters damage the system (the water source, the cooling, or the containment)), you will have a meltdown. This means nuclear MUST be heavily defended.
* If you lose a part of the system due to biters (like water or the cooling tower) the system gradually heads towards meltdown.
* A true meltdown should produce actual radiation that works differently than pollution such as not allowing you to walk in the area anymore without receiving damage (although some areas would be so bad you can't go), however buildings could still work.
* You must store waste somewhere... but biters are attracted to the radiation (so you must defend the waste storage for all time even if you stop using nuclear!).


* It would be nice if you could design the nuclear system in a complex factory design involving many buildings instead of just plopping down a reactor building, cooling tower, and pipes, etc.... What I mean is something like this game, except that instead of designing the insides of the reactor, you spread out the design across many buildings: http://www.kongregate.com/games/Cael/re ... ncremental
* You know, factorio doesn't HAVE to use nuclear. It could invent some alien material that works like nuclear but gives them the freedom to make it work in ways that are more fun and allows for more automation and factory design.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by GotLag » Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:41 pm

Meltdowns are unimaginative and unfun.

There's already a mechanism to destroy carelessly-built structures, it's called biters.

Chemical plants and refineries don't explode when mistreated, nothing in Factorio does. Reactors shouldn't either. Call it a built-in failsafe, using a cool-down mechanic or something similar to discourage careless setups.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by bobucles » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:17 am

Meltdowns are a relic of the 60's. You can punish factories plenty by wasting fuel or shutting the reactor down so you lose much needed energy.

Biters are a threat to any undefended part of a factory. If a nuke setup requires more external setup then yes, it will naturally be more vulnerable to biters. Say that biters break a fuel belt or water line. Well now you don't have power, nuts.

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by afk2minute » Tue Aug 23, 2016 9:15 am

SeelenJaegerTee wrote:It would also have been reasonable to assume that the high-tech nation Japan has its reactors under control - so I'm totally in camp meltdown.
I do however quite like the idea that nuclear reactors don't respond quickly to consumption changes.
Now google some chemical plant disasters and coal\gas power plant disasters.
We have none of them in factorio.

Some more facts
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents
Nuclear power is one of the safest by statistics.
So why we devolpers should introduce some mechanic that is both unrealistic (statistic-wise) and is not in line with existing game mechanics (fail safety, if smth dont work because you pluged acid instead of water than nothing explodes etc).

Im 100% is against meltdowns and explosions.
Punish players other way (fuel wastage, dramatic decrease of power (non-linear, 70% fuel = 50% of power, 50% of fuel = 20% of power, 25% of fuel = it doesnt work at all, or even more strong dependance), high pollution if biters get to the nuclear building(not necessary destroy it but just damage is enough), even if they touch uranium mines or some enrichment chain). So many ways.....

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Re: Making nuclear reactors interesting (and thus fun)

Post by GotLag » Sun Oct 09, 2016 8:32 am

In case anyone hadn't noticed, I have implemented my ideas in a mod:
https://mods.factorio.com/mods/GotLag/Reactors

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