The China Syndrome
The China Syndrome was a movie made in 1979 about the terrifying possibility of a nuclear meltdown. Without enough water to cool the fuel rods, the superheated fuel melted through the steel floor of the nuclear reactor, and melted through the Earth’s crust until it reached the groundwater several miles below. The uranium cooled but the water became radioactive, and the drinking water was poisoned. The China syndrome is not plausible because there would still be enough water left at the bottom of the nuclear reactor to cool the fuel rods and the uranium, and it would not be possible of the molten materials to melt through the 8 inches of steel at the bottom.
A similar, less extreme version happened in Japan recently. The first and third reactors in Japan’s Daiichi nuclear power plant were affected by the tsunami that hit several months ago, causing the cooling systems to malfunction, and the fueling rods to begin to melt. The water that is left is currently stopping the fuel rods from reaching smoldering-hot, disastrous temperatures, but if they are not cooled more effectively soon, they ach temperatures around 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. At these devastating temperatures, the radioactive material will melt through. It appears that a situation close to that depicted in The China Syndrome is possible in Japan. If this were to happen, radioactive material could spread through the water to the United States, and around the world, poisoning both our seafood and our water supply.