To the editor:
I was saddened to read of the passing of actor Wilford Brimley. Although newspaper obituaries referred to him as a “character actor,” it was his first credited performance in the 1979 film “The China Syndrome” (starring Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon) that forever defined him for me.
Involved with the Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant at the time, I appreciated Brimley’s realistic portrayal of a nuclear power plant engineer during the climactic moments of the film when a malfunctioning reactor coolant pump threatened a melt-down.
I watched “The China Syndrome” a number of times with pen and note pad, writing down the film’s technical errors in my attempt to debunk its anti-nuclear-power slant.
“China Syndrome” was a disparaging term implying that a nuclear reactor core meltdown would burn its way through the earth all the way to China. Seizing upon an antithesis of the term, I submitted a cartoon to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists depicting a pagoda-like movie theater with this on the marquee: NOW PLAYING: AMERICA SYNDROME. The cartoon was accepted, published, and paid me $80.