I'm adding my support to the "Nuclear reactor explosion trope needs to die" group. I'd much rather have SCRAMs that prevent meltdowns, proper meltdowns into a pile of radioactive slag and steam explosions from damaged reactors causing an insane pollution / radioactivity spike, rather than the ever-present "the reactor is actually a nuclear bomb that is yet to explode" trope.
I'd much rather have meltdowns that reduce the reactor to a molten puddle of slag that is basically inaccessible without proper cleanup tech coupled with a massive pollution penalty that slowly fades off, or steam explosions that basically cause the same thing but even worse. With both of them only caused by overstressed, biter-attacked reactors failing spectacularly. Or if the reactors take damage from overheat, have damaged reactors leak fallout that builds up and is slow to fade, culminating with the reactor melting down into slag. No big boom, maybe not even any damage to surrounding building and creatures, just a massive beacon for basically all the biters in the map to concentrate towards.
I'd also ask that, either built-in into the basic reactor tech tree or as a separate tech tree, there'd be safety systems for the reactor. Start with the basic auto-SCRAM that shuts down the overstressed reactor until a player comes back and kicks it back into working order, next research a way to start the power production at a lower capacity sooner and build it up slowly into the intended capacity, maybe include a way to reinforce a reactor so that a biter attack / overstressed heat management won't cause fallout or a meltdown to happen as quickly. Basically Hiddencamper's idea:
Hiddencamper wrote:So maybe one way to implement this, is a tech upgrade for reactors for an improved Reactor Protection System (Actual system in a nuclear plant), which instead of having an explosion, it causes the reactor to shut down for some extended period of time. This would mimic xenon poisoning that some reactors get after a SCRAM, where they cannot restart until the xenon has decayed away. Another possible upgrade would be for higher fuel enrichment, allowing the reactor to restart sooner after a SCRAM, but very slowly, again mimicing plants which have "Xenon Override Capability" where we use higher energy fuel and are able to restart anytime, but we have more problematic core limits because of the xenon poisoning.
This way, mismanaged or underprotected nuclear power production still causes complications but in the form of power outages and, if badly enough mismanaged to cause fallout or a meltdown, a massive biter retaliation. Those who would wish to push the reactors into unsafe territory would still need to balance the fact that if they push them too far, they'll be left without most of their power production, potentially with a big biter wave incoming.