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Monday, January 23, 2006

The West Wing 7.12: The Nuclear and Political Meltdown.

A nuclear meltdown coincides with one Presidential Nominee's.

The West Wing, in one of its final episodes, provides a top quality episode that involves The White House and the two campaigns surrounding the possible meltdown of a nuclear power plant in San Andreo, California. This week's episode starts off right at the end of last week's episode. The knowledge of a possible nuclear meltdown puts The White House in disaster mode and the two campaigns in silent mode. Before this episode, it would appear that Vinick was on his way to a landslide victory in the election, but not anymore. Vinick was a giant supporter of nuclear power plants and footage of the live debate where he proclaims nuclear power as the safest and cleanest alternative to oil. This footage is shown over and over on the news in regards to the possible nuclear meltdown for six hours with neither Vinick nor Santos making any statements about the disaster. Another bombshell hits the Vinick campaign as he was the man primarily responsible for lobbying for the creation of the San Andreo power plant 25 years ago.

The White House deals with the situation in San Andreo by releasing dangerous levels of radiation into the atmosphere to prevent an explosion, but this is only a temporary fix to the underlying problem. Although the venting was a temporary fix, it prompts a panicked evacuation from a much larger area than is needed. President Bartlet is forced to send in civilian engineers into the building to secure some valves to solve the problem. The president chooses to keep them in the building for over 30 minutes despite being told that exposure of the radiation after 15 minutes was dangerous. They fail to close the last valve and President Bartlet is forced to send in another pair of civilian engineers to close the final valve. They are successful, but Bartlet learns that one of the men in the first group has died of radiation poisoning.

Back at the campaigns, the Santos campaign is unsure if their strategy of keeping quiet and letting the press sniff out the information about Vinick themselves. Donna is sent by Josh, unbeknownst to Santos, to find a reporter and leak the information about Vinick's lobbying for the power plant in San Andreo. Donna finds a reporter and it turns out they have already sniffed it out on themselves. At the Vinick camp, they are awaiting for the Santos camp to hit them with the information so they can counter the attack. The hit never comes and the Vinick campaign is forced to make a statement on the issue. The President invites Vinick, and not Santos, with him on Air Force One in his visit to California since he is the senator from California. This stems the press a bit, but Vinick's close ties to the disaster and nuclear power in general puts a dozen states that were once securely in the Vinick corner back into play. The election is going to be closer than we thought.

The writers found a way to make the election a close one. A quite genius move in creating a disaster that ends up knocking down Vinick a notch. Next week's episode will be about the impending doom in Kazakhstan as the Chinese and Russians fight over the oil in the region and war seems all but certain at this point. The widespread reports of election fraud and intimidation will certainly push the Chinese to invade and force Russia to come and protect its oil interests. Sadly, this is the last season of The West Wing as the departure of Aaron Sorkin, creator and writer, and the death of John Spencer, Leo McGarry on the show, makes it impossible for the show to return. That means the election of the new president will mark the end of the Bartlet administration and The West Wing as a whole.


  • I'm afraid that while The West Wing may be an entertaining drama, it's nuclear accident scenario was very silly. If you'd like to read an entertaining account of a nuclear accident that is accurate, see for a thriller novel written by a longtime nuclear engineer (me). There is no cost to readers.

    By Blogger James Aach, at 3:57 PM, January 23, 2006  

  • I usually think that the scenerios portrayed in TV shows are often wrought with technical mistakes and errors.

    By Blogger lampy., at 5:20 PM, January 23, 2006  

  • Yeah, I think that is the usual assumption when watching a television drama. You know, suspension of belief and all. But yes, if our readers would like to read a thriller novel written by a longtime nuclear engineer (you) they know where to turn to.

    By Blogger iomegadrive, at 6:16 PM, January 23, 2006  

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