Melting Moments


The Nuclear energy debate is back in the headlines. Not surprising really as the world comes to grips with the worst oil crisis in forty years and the price of petrol soars ever upward. At the time of writing, media outlets are reporting that petrol has reached A$171.9 in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

As Australian motorists deal with rising fuel prices, in the US, Presidential Republican hopeful, John McCain, has come out strongly in favour of nuclear energy, advocating building new commercial nuclear plants.

Rising fossil fuel prices make the nuclear option more attractive. A recent UK newspaper poll found 86% of respondents in favour of nuclear energy. of course, nuclear energy still has its detractors; Friends of the Earth spokesman, Ali Abbas believes that “nuclear power is a dirty, dangerous and expensive distraction”. Many haven’t forgotten the lesson of Three Mile Island.

For those of you too young to remember Three Mile Island, located about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was the site of the worst nuclear accident in the United States, when a partial meltdown occurred in 1979. As it happens, Three Mile Island was back in the news for all the wrong reasons just recently. On that occasion, it was an inspector, conducting a random inspection who was having a meltdown. The reason; apparently a guard was so busy playing a handheld video game that he failed to see the inspector approach.

He swears he was scanning the horizon, but we strongly suspect he was playing Metal Gear Acid 2.

You’d think in this post-9/11 world that guards protecting nuclear power plants would be, you know, actually guarding. Turns out however that the employee didn’t violate any rules. Apparently, the guards are allowed to engage in mind-stimulating activities, according to the State Department of Environmental Protection. Just in case you think that guarding the power plant from possible terrorist raids and protecting the free world wasn’t stimulating enough, the guards are actually allowed to play video games. The problem this time around was that the game was basically just too damn good.

I can actually see this being developed into a marketing opportunity. An endorsement label from the State Department of Environmental Protection – “This Game is deemed too immersive to be played by Three Mile Island Guards” would be a guarantee that the game was A1 quality. Conversely, a top ten list of games ‘now playing’ at the Three Mile Island plant would be a reliable indicator of games best left well alone.

In his defence, the guard did apparently respond properly to a radio check while the inspector was present. He was able to tear himself away from the video game long enough to press talk on the radio and presumably say words to the effect of ‘All clear at this end”. He just failed to notice the presumably very annoyed inspector standing right in front of him. And to be fair, it was late. The inspections were conducted between 4am and 8am in the morning. Unlike a shift manager who was reportedly reassigned earlier for sleeping on the job, this guard was at least awake.

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