Boy, we ‘re sure going to have some wrecks now!
—Walt Disney, upon constructing a model train
to encircle his house
On March 16, 1979, Hollywood released a runof-the-mill film that might have been rather unremarkable had the fictional plot not played out in real life while the movie was still in theaters. The China Syndrome, starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas, features a reporter who witnesses a nuclear power plant incident that power company executives subsequently attempt to cover up. Many days pass before the full extent of the meltdown surfaces. Just twelve days after The China Syndrome premiered, operators at the Unit 2 nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, received abnormally high temperature readings from the containment building’s sensors. They ignored them. Many hours passed before the operators realized that the facility they were standing in had entered into partial core meltdown. Power company executives attempted to trivialize the incident and many days passed before the full extent of the meltdown surfaced.