Meltdown: Three Mile Island review – exploring the nuclear nightmare in Middletown, Pennsylvania

May 2, 2022
Romey Norton 1
Netflix, Streaming Service, TV Reviews
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Netflix documentary series Meltdown: Three Mile Island


“Spinning the population up, then spinning them down”, is the serious story of the biggest nuclear accident on American soil. 

Netflix documentary series Meltdown: Three Mile Island will be released on May 4, 2022. 

Netflix has released a documentary series about the accident that occurred at Three Mile Island in 1979, which is the worst nuclear accident to ever happen on American soil. After keeping information from the media, Academy Award-nominated director Kief Davidson (The Ivory Game) has collaborated with Erin Brockovich producers Michael and Carla Shamberg and Moxie Pictures to tell the true story of this event. 

We’re all familiar with what happened in Chernobyl, but little has been told about this striking event in the USA. This four-part series is gripping from the start. Each episode examines the missteps that led to the national cover-up. In the first episode we’re shown the excitement about nuclear power plants, because of the jobs it was creating, boosting the industry, and how it was going to positively build their economy. No fears, just pure hope and trust. Through the episodes we learn how scare stories were created in the news, causing mass hysteria amongst the community, and how the locals felt they were treated throughout the years. 

The residents are passionate, emotional, and still affected by the incident today. The most compelling part is Rick Parks’ involvement, sacrifice, and strife. The series uses old footage, cartoons, and reenactments mixed with modern interviews with Middletown Residents from the time. Packed full of information and suspense. The residents of this community really were misled and mis-sold information, and as a collective, I am glad they have been able to share the stories of their experiences of what happened. The traumatic stories of people fleeing and hearing/seeing the explosion must have been terrifying. They fear for their lives, their futures, and their grandchildren’s futures. 

The accident was the partial meltdown of an atomic reactor in March 1979, marking the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history. The plant cost 700 million to make, operated for less than 90 days, and will cost 1 billion to clear up (it’s still being cleared up today). The main investigation here is, could the accident have been prevented? Essentially there is a lot to learn from this documentary. As viewers, we need to learn from the Three Mile Island disaster as we face the current climate and energy crisis. My hope is that the more documentaries like this come out and stories can be told, they might make a difference and start changing many societies’ love of greed.

The series shows that the plant’s parent company, Metropolitan Edison, downplayed the crisis claiming that no radiation had been detected off plant grounds. However, there were tracked increased levels of radiation as well as a contaminated water leak. Although these small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public — or did they? Many residents who were in the 3-5 mile radius have later had cancer and many other side effects of radiation poisoning. Coincidence? Watch and see what you think.

Overall this docuseries is an interesting and fascinating watch. It offers a chance to learn about nuclear power, the negatives and positives, and how devastated it can leave a community when things go wrong. I learned that evacuation isn’t as simple as it sounds and that it can be a serious concern. What decisions are made when it comes to informing the public and essentially running a town? However, it was clear that the people in power were choosing money and industry over people and their safety. Shocking but not surprising. You’ll like this documentary if you enjoyed the series Chernobyl and if you’re a fan of the director Kief Davidson’s work. I’d definitely recommend watching. 

What did you think of the Netflix documentary series Meltdown: Three Mile Island? Comment below.

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1 thought on “Meltdown: Three Mile Island review – exploring the nuclear nightmare in Middletown, Pennsylvania

  • May 5, 2022 at 11:16 am

    Fully agree with this review. Apart from the clear, step by step, description of the history, the series shows the impact on the lives of the community. In particular, we hear throughout from Ray Parkes, a nuclear-supporting engineer who blew the whistle about safety infringements. As a result, a dangerous step in the clean-up process was delayed for a year with extensive equipment upgrades and then did not go perfectly. If it had kept to the original schedule and went wrong, a huge area of the US could have been contaminated with radiation.

    A gripping watch.

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