Meltdown: Three Mile Island: (Miniseries, Documentary)
May 6, 2022 11:55 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Insiders recount the events, controversies and lingering effects of the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.
posted by geoff. (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This documentary really makes me miss Errol Morris' excellent filmmaking style. Everything else feels like an "Unsolved Mystery" special, including with the Lifetime style dramatization of some of the narratives.

The first episode and part of the second goes into a broad summary of the Three Mile Island and the hysteria surrounding it. Eventually it gets to the good part of the documentary: little known Richard Parks and his whistleblowing and strange Watergate-style bullying to quiet him. Like a bad TV movie, drugs are planted on him, his house is ransacked, the FBI tells him he's in danger and there's a dramatic meeting with the Government Accountability Project at night in a bar. The only thing missing is Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

I'll be honest and was always under the impression that Three Mile Island was caused by the Normal Accident Theory, that it was operator error and could never happen again due to new regulations. I felt this was a bit of a feint as prior to every nuclear disaster everyone was told it was safe, could never happen again, and regulations and safety factors put in place prevented it from happening. But in any case this focused not on the accident itself, which there was obviously some sort of coverup or at least a minimization of the health effects but on the prevention of a second nuclear disaster due to the high costs, and profits, of the Bechtel lead cleanup efforts.

Richard was a true believer in nuclear energy, which makes this story even more appealing. I'm surprised there's no Wikipedia page on him or the story of the Bechtel cost cutting in the cleanup. In the end nothing happened so likely people don't usually write stories about disasters that never occured, but I'm wondering if Netflix over-stated or hyped up the actual impact he had. My experience in construction contracting align with his experience. There's no supervillain demanding corners be cut but the system itself is giant apparatus that lends itself to pressure to get things done by deadlines. It is effective in getting projects done and in reasonable budgets but doesn't lend itself to arenas where failure literally is not an option.

Really an interesting documentary and I would love a non-dramatized version of events.
posted by geoff. at 12:15 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed this. I didn't know much about the incident, so the first two episodes were informative for me. But the second two were particularly interesting because of the focus on whistle-blowing. Parks is charming in a natural, everyday way so I'm not surprised they wanted to focus so much on him.

I completely agree with you geoff that the system pushes towards these unsafe outcomes, more than any particular villain rubbing their hands at the chance to get rich. But I'd still like to know who the men in suits were, and where they went after this.
posted by harriet vane at 7:24 AM on May 19


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