"The history of nuclear power in the United States has been marked by numerous milestones, many of them bad — accidents, construction snafus, engineering incompetence, etc., etc.
One anniversary of an incident that has cast a long shadow over the nuclear power industry’s claim for safety will be marked this week. On Oct. 5, 1966 — that’s 50 years ago Wednesday — Detroit Edison’s Fermi-1 nuclear plant suffered a partial meltdown, caused by a piece of floating shrapnel inside the container vessel.
According to subsequent inspections, no radioactivity escaped to the environment. No injuries were reported inside or outside the plant. The worst case scenario of a “China Syndrome” incident in which melted fuel pooled within the containment vessel and reached critical mass didn’t even come close to occurring.
Nuclear industry apologists long have resented the public attention given to the Fermi-1 meltdown, especially through novelist John G. Fuller’s 1975 book about the case, “We Almost Lost Detroit” (which itself prompted the song of the same name by the late Gil Scott-Heron). Even industry critics have faulted Fuller’s book for technical inaccuracies and an overly theatrical tone. But it did put its finger on the bureaucratic and ideological forces that gave birth to America’s nuclear power industry and set the stage for decades of wretched management."