Meltdown Three Mile Island is the new four-part, investigative docuseries released on Netflix on 4th May 2022. It leads us through the nearly averted Nuclear disaster on the three-mile island in Pennsylvania, Middletown. It is directed by Kief Davidson and executive producers Michael and Carla Shamberg, known for Erin Brockovich & Robert Fernandez, films of similar subject.
The four-part limited series has a runtime of about 40-50 minutes each episode. Check out the trailer below.
Netflix’s synopsis of the series reads:
“Insiders recount the events, controversies and lingering effects of the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.”
– Meltdown Three Mile Island review does not contain spoilers –
When Real Life Imitates ‘Reel Life’
Meltdown Three Mile Island tells us the story of the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor in the three-mile island nuclear plant, located in Middletown, Pennsylvania. On 28 March 1979, one of the newly started reactors called Unit 2 (TMI-2) started malfunctioning and sent all the alarms ablaze at 4 in the morning.
Startled by this unusual commotion at such wee hours, the unprepared workers & plant managers couldn’t figure out the problem in time, which led to large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant escaping into the surrounding areas & environment. It is the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history. Rated level 5 accident with wider consequences on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale.
But what makes this event even more eerily astonishing is that it happened right after 12 days, the film The China Syndrome was released. The film is about a corporate cover-up around a nuclear power plant accident. Coincidence much? The film starring Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon has one dialogue that makes us believe that even real life can imitate reel life.
One of the characters says, “(the nuclear explosion) could render an area the size of Pennsylvania permanently uninhabitable”. Sounds like a premonition of what could have happened in the three-mile island nuclear reactor due to mechanical & human error. Before the film was released nobody had any doubts about nuclear power plants and nuclear energy was the promise of a better tomorrow.
Ironically, even in 1979, the American society was going through a shortage of fuel, oils & natural resources. At that time Nuclear energy seemed to be the best option to fulfil all the resource requirements without depending upon foreign exports. But the partial melting at the three-mile island reactor and the following cover-up, misguiding communication & conflicting information put a damp on the future of nuclear power plants in America.
The film, The China Syndrome added to the anxiety and the fear became greater among the residents of Middletown as it was the fear of the unknown. We can’t see or feel the radiations that happen due to a nuclear accident & it could have escalated into a big man-made disaster if only a few people didn’t stand up for what was right for the people & the environment.
The docuseries gives us the direct point of view of the residents that lived within a 5-10 mile range of the power plant. Those who were children at that time can still recall the horror & hysteria they had to go through. It also tries to show contrast and conflict through interviews of the officials in power, side by side. The technical staff and people involved explain, what it was like being there at the moment and what happened in real-time.
Even though the catastrophe was controlled within the time from turning into a nuclear explosion but the danger remained even after 3 years of the incident when the cleanup of the reactor was proposed. The main issue, in this case, is the cover-up by the company involved to keep their business running without owning up to their neglect and wrongdoings.
Final Thoughts: Stream it or Skip it?
Meltdown: Three Mile Island is a lesson for us to witness and understand that commercialisation can sometimes put people’s lives in peril. There are no shortcuts when dealing with something so destructive as nuclear energy. As one of the interviewees says, you can’t have monetary profit overriding the nuclear industry. How the companies behave in the time of atrocity can tell a lot about their internal functioning.
If only the government body NRC and its officials listened to their staff then maybe the future of nuclear energy might have been different in America today. The incident could have been completely avoided if the machinery & technical errors were thoroughly checked and repaired in time, then maybe families wouldn’t be broken and thousands of people wouldn’t be going through life-threatening issues till now.
The series is a must-watch if you like the series of similar lines, Chernobyl. The series differentiates between the past event re-enactment & archival footage with present time through different screen ratios. The past demonstration is shown in 16:9 ratio or a rectangle size screen and archival footage in square size screen or 4:3 ratio.
With only 4 episodes, the series is a quick yet riveting watch that leaves a lingering feeling. It can be categorised as an investigative true-crime documentary as well.
Meltdown: Three Mile Island is streaming on Netflix.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.