Ok. So we don’t expect much from these mega-blockbuster disaster films.
But maybe just a hint about reality could spice things up. At least maybe a passing acknowledgement that the actual San Andreas could turn the Diablo Canyon nukes into a seething heap of radioactive rubble and permanently irradiate all of California?
Is that too much to ask, even of Hollywood?
In a Hollywood high-budget Earth-coming-to-an-end flick like this one, there will always be a lame love story, totally improbable close calls where death is narrowly escaped again and again, and lead characters—male and female alike—with zero body fat who emerge onto the screen fresh from four hours of pumping iron.
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San Andreas more than delivers on all of the above. The male lead (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) might be mistaken in some circles for basketball superstar LeBron James, who is six feet eight, 250 pounds—but who leaps like a gazelle and ball handles like a ballerina.
I knew this guy wasn’t LeBron because LeBron and the Cavaliers were losing game one of the NBA finals to the Warriors elsewhere in the Bay Area exactly as we watched this.
The Warriors also emerged from that game with an improbable (overtime) victory.
And I hope you appreciate that I missed that memorable contest and suffered through the excruciating, sleep-inducing, occasional laugh-out-loud plot twists of this mega-melodrama to confirm just one thing:
Yes! In fact they did make a super-high-budget disaster movie about the eruption of the San Andreas fault without once mentioning the nuclear power plant that would define it all for generations to come.
In the film two seismologists discover how to predict earthquakes just in time to warn the world that San Francisco is about to shudder and fall.
The destruction of the city is actually a sight to behold. And an awesome tsunami does make an appearance.
Three words do not: Fukushima; Diablo Canyon.
Should we reasonably expect such a real-world accommodation in such a frivolous entertainment?
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Here’s what we know:
The San Andreas is 45 miles from the two 1,100-megawatt-plus reactors at Diablo Canyon. That’s just half the distance Fukushima was from the quake that wrecked at least Unit 1 and sent in that tsunami to finish off Units 2, 3 and 4.
In all likelihood a 9-plus shaking from the San Andreas could reduce the two reactors at Diablo to radioactive rubble. As at Fukushima, we’d expect hydrogen explosions, maybe some fission, the loss of the cores, the cracking of the spent fuel pools, fires, mayhem, apocalyptic emissions.
Things would be made far worse, of course, because we now know at least a dozen fault lines surround those reactors, and they were not made to withstand them. One, the Shoreline, passes within 700 yards of the two cores. The NRC’s own resident inspector, Dr. Michael Peck, has warned that Diablo simply cannot reliably survive those faults going off … and should be shut.
We also know that all those fault lines are interconnected. There’s a hint of that as our scientific expert (Paul Giamatti) shows us how a previously unknown fault line in Nevada could touch off the Big One in California.
In fact, there’s simply no way that a shock and tsunami anywhere near as big as depicted in this 3-D IMAX monster would not result in the state being saturated with massive radiation releases from those melted, exploded, rubble-ized reactors. Diablo’s radioactive cloud would quickly blanket North America, destroying our food sources and our economy and ultimately killing millions.
None of this, of course, makes it into the film.
The reason is simple: imagine yourself a Hollywood screenwriter depicting extreme bravery followed by happy endings while everyone both on the screen and in the city where it’s being shown are massively dosed by a radioactive cloud that will continue to spew for the next, say, thousand years.
Try to envision the dramatic possibilities of watching the vast majority of the nation’s fruit, vegetable and nut supplies being hopelessly contaminated, and the land on which they’re being grown rendered useless for millennia to come.
Then let’s think about the romantic twists of radiation sickness setting in and millions of chiseled Hollywood actors realizing that their lives and those of their progeny have been forever ruined.
Let’s throw in a few humorous moments here and there to lighten things up. Plus some flappings of the American flag and a stage right hymn to the exceptional ability of we Americans to “start all over again.”
Then, when we’ve written such a screenplay, let’s go get it funded.
So the rumor that San Andreas makes no mention of Diablo Canyon is confirmed. The spent fuel pools at San Onofre, Rancho Seco and Humboldt do not appear. Nor are we reminded that a tsunami far smaller than what the filmmakers roll through the San Francisco Bay would utterly wreck not only Diablo but all the fracking, oil and other extraction rigs along the coast and inland throughout the Golden State, taking the term “pollution” to a whole new level.
At great personal cost, I’ve confirmed all that. If you like seeing apocalyptic urban destruction and a giant tsunami wave, take in this film. You might want to bring something to read during the dramatic interludes.
But don’t count on even a shred of radioactive reality.
And join me to watch Game 2. Unless the Big One does come.
In which case, I guarantee, despite what you won’t see in San Andreas … it will be “Game Over.”