Friday, January 2, 2015

Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story by Wilborn Hampton

In Meltdown, Wilbornn Hampton, a United Press International reporter, details his experience covering the story of the potential nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island.

The book begins with an overview of Hiroshima.  In particular, the terrible aftereffects the nuclear bomb had.  It not only killed 100,000 people instantly.  Thousands of people developed cancer and radiation sickness.  Years after mothers gave birth to deformed babies.  The water was polluted and no food could be grown because of radiation in the soil.  The effects of nuclear fallout exist for generations to come.

Hampton tells of the call he received on March 30, 1979.  The initial incident had actually occurred on March 28, but things had been kept pretty quiet.  As the situation worsened, news got out and reporters like Hampton started arriving on the scene.

Hampton details the chain of events that lead to the potential disaster.  The book includes diagrams to help illustrate the layout of the nuclear reactors and how the system of pressurized water worked to keep the reactors cool and functioning.  The book also contains many primary documents, including images of Three Mile Island and the surrounding area, and newspaper clippings.

I don't think I completely understood the science of the nuclear reactors despite the diagrams and illustrations, but Hampton tells a good story that I was fully engaged in. Honestly, not a whole lot happened!  There was a lot of waiting around, a lot of conflicting reports about how dangerous the situation really was and how long they had before a potential meltdown.  Hampton was able to tell an exciting story regardless.

The book ends with a brief look at Chernobyl, which was not as lucky.  There, a meltdown occurred with terrible short and long-term consequences.

At no point does Hampton give his opinion on whether nuclear power is a good or bad thing.  After a book full of all the terrible things that could happen, he finishes with mentioning that nuclear power still has many supporters and how it's today's youth who will need to figure out the best form on new electricity.

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