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A film that reminded the world of the nuclear danger

The China Syndrome (1979) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p]


How THE CHINA SYNDROME Brought Down The Nuclear Power Industry, The film that predicted Three Mile Island and affected the response to Chernobyl. Birth, Movies, Death. By  When we think about nuclear power, we tend to think about disasters. Real life has given us plenty of reason to do so: between Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, three major global powers have each seen their nuclear industries fall subject to catastrophe. People died; economies crashed; whole sections of Earth were rendered uninhabitable. Hell, Chernobyl arguably ended the entire Soviet Union.

Entertainment, too, has played a significant role in creating this image of nuclear power. Dozens of movies, TV miniseries, and documentaries over the years have played off and magnified real-life fears, often drawing a direct connection between the “peaceful atom” and its destructive wartime counterpart. One of the first, and most influential, was James Bridges’ 1979 atomic energy thriller The China Syndrome.

“The China Syndrome” is a colloquial term for a very real threat in the event of a nuclear accident. It refers to a reactor accident wherein reactivity becomes so supercritical that operators cannot control it. The fuel gets so hot, it melts its mounting channels, control rods, and even exterior housing, burning through concrete and steel to seep unstoppably downwards – in fanciful terms, all the way to China (hence the name). This actually happened, to a degree, at Chernobyl: the reactor transformed into hundreds of tons of corium lava, eating through multiple basement levels and nearly breaching the building’s foundations before it cooled sufficiently to stop melting concrete. The danger, as with any China Syndrome situation, was that the fuel would reach groundwater, poisoning the land or creating a steam explosion that would blast radioactive material across an enormous area.

Curiously, there is no China Syndrome in The China Syndrome. Based primarily on a 1970 accident at the Dresden Nuclear Power Station in Illinois, the film follows reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) after they witness an accident while reporting at a California nuclear power plant.  ………….

Predictably, the nuclear industry had a fiery reaction. Westinghouse executive John Taylor described the film as “an overall character assassination of an entire industry.” Nuclear experts generally agreed that the film’s specific events were highly improbable (if not entirely impossible), but also that an inherent clash exists between earning corporate profits and spending the money required to keep reactors safe. The industry may have been correct to debate the film’s finer technical points or melodramatic ending, but it’s hard to argue that unchecked capitalism doesn’t encourage corner-cutting.

On that note, it’s worth noting, that The China Syndrome’s institutional failure is near-identical to that which contributed to the Chernobyl disaster. Both saw powerful organisations covering up disastrous mistakes made in the name of cost-efficiency, but they come from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. One comes from American capitalism, where making money and gaining power comes first and safety regulations are a costly hassle. The other comes from Soviet communism, where saving money and maintaining power came first and safety regulations were a costly hassle. Personal and institutional selfishness knows no political boundaries, and both all-powerful states and all-powerful corporations are prone to malfeasance.

All the industry’s rebuttal ultimately proved ill-advised, of course, as less than two weeks after the film’s release, a reactor underwent a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station. Still the most serious nuclear accident in US history, the accident caused no immediate deaths, but the radiation leakage may have contributed to cancers, and the fourteen years of cleanup cost a billion dollars. More importantly, it caused opinion to solidify around the The China Syndrome’s thesis: that the nuclear energy industry could not be trusted with nuclear energy……… https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2019/06/28/how-the-china-syndrome-brought-down-the-nuclear-power-industry

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June 29, 2019 - Posted by | media, USA

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