Even most "realistic" collapse novels tend to ignore what happens to all those nuclear facilities when half the operators become zombies and than proceed to eat the other half. In Lucifer's Hammer, the nuclear power plant stays online, and becomes the focal point for a local recovery, but what is happening to the rest of them out there is not all that clear. It is also not all that clear how long a completely isolated nuclear power plant could stay online without an outside supply of fuel and parts.
Hopes of Home Fade Among Japans Displaced
Martin Fackler, New York Times, 26 November 2012
AIZU-WAKAMATSU, Japan - As cold northerly winds sprinkle the first snow on the mountains surrounding this medieval city, those who fled here after last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster are losing hope that they will ever return to their old homes.
The mayor of Okuma, a town near the Fukushima Daiichi plant that was hastily evacuated when a huge earthquake and tsunami crippled the reactors' cooling systems on March 11, 2011, has vowed to lead residents back home as soon as radiation levels are low enough. But the slow pace of the government's cleanup efforts, and the risk of another leak from the plant's reactors, forced local officials to admit in September that it might be at least a decade before the town could be resettled.
After living in school gymnasiums and other shelters for about a month, Okuma's town hall officials and about 4,300 of its residents relocated to temporary sites in Aizu-Wakamatsu, with most of the rest scattered as far as Tokyo, about 140 miles away. The mayor, Toshitsuna Watanabe, immediately began drawing up plans for returning to Okuma that called for a group to resettle a small corner of the town where radiation levels were relatively low. The settlers would then slowly expand the livable areas, decontaminating one street or building at a time, like colonists reclaiming a post-apocalyptic wilderness...
But the ministry said this summer that an experimental effort to decontaminate a 42-acre area in Okuma had failed to reduce radiation dosages by as much as had been hoped, leading officials to declare most of the town uninhabitable for at least another five years. That forced Okuma's officials to change the target date of their "road map" for repopulating the town to 2022, instead of 2014.