Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island

A Reporter's Story

by Wilborn Hampton

Reviewed March 20, 2004

Book CoverAward-winning reporter, Wilborn Hampton offers a compelling account of his experiences covering the near meltdown at Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in 1979. He begins the story by recounting the bombing of Hiroshima and then transitions to the promise of atomic energy. This sets the stage for the events that began that fateful morning of March 28, 1979. At 4 a.m., alarms began shrieking in the control room of TMI. Within minutes, technical failures, compounded by human error, began to trigger the worst nuclear power accident in the United States.

Hampton was assigned to cover the unfolding crisis. He provides an insight to the workings of a reporter on the scene (in an era before the internet and 24 hour news channels). The ensuing days are captured with a reporter's objectivity, while still offering hindsight to the chaos, uncertainty and misinformation that surrounded the events. Although I was only in the 5th grade, my family was temporarily living in Dayton, Ohio during the crisis, and I can recall the tension in the adults. Since we were from California, Ohio was a little too close to Pennsylvania.

Although the reactor is brought under control and the crisis averted, Hampton concludes with book with a chapter on the greater tragedy at Chernobyl. The book is designed for a younger audience, but still serves as a nice primer to the events of twenty-five years ago.

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