“Meltdown”: A Video Warning

July 28th, 2004 - by admin

Mary Olson / Nuclear Information Research Service – 2004-07-28 12:02:50


“Terrorists did not have to build a nuclear weapon…we did it for them: Meltdown. The Threat Is Real.” — FX Cable Channel.

(June 12, 2004) — A cable channel — FX — has done an amazing thing. They have used the “reality tv” format to project what would happen in a terrorist attack on a commercial nuclear power reactor in the US. This mostly accurate script tells more nuclear truth for longer than any other widely accessible piece of media that I am aware of since China Syndrome in 1979.

In a very sophisticated script that does not pull any punches on the real issues of nuclear security (NIRS staff are all wondering who helped with the highly accurate script), the story line features guys who are contaminated with DU and dying of cancer trying their best to warn the people of the US that so-called homeland security is a joke when it comes to nuclear power stations.

Most receiving this message know full well that a nuclear power reactor contains enough deadly radiation to far exceed the radiological consequences of a nuclear weapon — the difference, of course, is that a bomb has explosive and fire power, whereas the reactor simply renders whatever population is nearby “toast” and the high-fallout zones uninhabitable virtually for the rest of history.

Perhaps most compelling to me is that the script raises the prospect that a real terror attack on nuclear reactor in the US would require a nuclear response from the US — and it shows the nuclear squads going to high alert — you have to watch for this issue since it is simply telegraphed into fast-moving dialogue and a few images… still it is an enormous question and not one I personally had considered.

If you can see this movie, do. I do not vouch for the quality of acting — hey this is a TV movie! On the other hand, so was “The Day After” in 1984… I just wish we had known about this to get the word out wider!

Mary Olson NIRS Southeast Office nirs@main.nc.us

Nuclear Power Industry Wary Of Planned ‘Meltdown’ Film
Jon Kamp / Dow Jones Newswires
June 04, 2004 5:12 PM

CHICAGO (June 4, 2004) — The US nuclear industry and its federal regulator are warily anticipating a made-for-television movie called “Meltdown” that News Corp. (NWS) unit FX Networks LLC plans to air this weekend.

The movie envisions a fictional California nuclear plant that’s taken over by terrorists. It’s advertised on the FX Web site with the line “Terrorists didn’t have to build a nuclear weapon…We built it for them.” The site adds that “The threat is real.”

The film’s promotions have caught the industry’s attention, and it’s already spreading word that the film and its premise don’t seem to reflect reality.

“I’m sure it will be a special effects spectacular, and a reality-challenged one,” said Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group for nuclear plant owners.

NEI has distributed fact sheets pointing out the “robustness” of nuclear plant security to about 15 entertainment writers, Kerekes said. He noted that nuclear plants are among the most heavily-defended civilian facilities in the country, and said he’s confident the public will judge the film simply as a fantasy that capitalizes on a popular disaster-theme trend.

“I think the general public is kind of used to, perhaps even weary of these things,” Kerekes said. “I look at it as a piece of entertainment.”

Atom-splitting is a particularly enticing disaster prop for made-for-TV movie producers. General Electric Co.’s (GE) NBC released “Atomic Train” in 1999, and TBS, a unit of Time Warner Inc.’s (TWX) Turner Broadcasting Systems, rolled out “Atomic Twister” in 2002.

NRC Complains about ‘Capitalizing’ on Fears of Terrorism
The NRC is concerned that the film appears to capitalize on real fears about terrorism involving nuclear plants, with fantastic scenarios regarding their vulnerability, spokesman Scott Burnell said. The agency is also concerned the movie could sell short the real capabilities of nuclear plant defenses and the industry and regulatory cooperation involved in protecting the sites, he said

“For a plot to suggest that a group of terrorists could perform some sort of elaborate maneuver to storm a nuclear power plant and have nobody know about it – that’s really stretching reality,” Burnell said.

Fictional “San Juan” Too Close To Real “San Onofre”
A further NRC concern, Burnell said, is that the name of the movie’s fictional “San Juan” nuclear plant in southern California sounds like the real and similarly-situated “San Onofre” plant owned by Edison International (EIX) unit Southern California Edison.

“We find it particularly unfortunate that the producers would so closely mimic physical reality in both naming and siting the plant,” Burnell said.

Ray Golden, spokesman for the utility, said it isn’t overly concerned about the film, but would like a disclaimer to remind people that it’s all fiction. He noted tens of millions of dollars have been spent to bolster San Onofre’s security since Sept. 11, and said the company isn’t at all worried the movie will highlight a genuine weakness.

“We can’t imagine they would have been able to postulate something we haven’t thought of,” Golden said.

Gerard Bocaccio, senior vice president of entertainment at FX Networks, said a disclaimer will precede the film and run at the one-hour mark to proclaim that it’s all fiction.

“We have disclaimers on the movie,” Bocaccio said. “There’s no doubt that it is a work of fiction.”

Advisors were on the set to help make sure the movie portrayed the real challenges of running a nuclear plant, and lots of research was poured into the project, he said. But the movie isn’t intended to finger-point regarding potential nuclear plant vulnerabilities or to make a political statement, he said.

“We take great care to try to identify the facts as best we can without editorializing or politicizing,” Bocaccio said.

The southern California site was a natural pick for a movie that deals with the challenges of evacuation and other issues, as the writers live there and are familiar with the topography, Bocaccio said. But the imagined San Juan plant is not meant to be San Onofre, he said.

The film was shot primarily at a waste disposal plant on Vancouver Island in Canada. “It is a work of fiction,” Bocaccio said. “We hope it’s entertaining.”