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The China Syndrome (1979) Poster

Goofs

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

When Hector is stuck in his car after the crash, a fireman is getting him out with a hydraulic rescue tool also know as a "spreader". The sound when he operates this tool is the sound that a chainsaw makes, but a spreader does not make any sound due to the fact that it is hydraulic.
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Character error 

Throughout the film, Michael Douglas makes the mistake of pronouncing the word "nuclear" as the incorrect "noo-kyoo-ler". (A mistake he also makes in The Game).
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Continuity 

In the introduction to the news, the announcer names Kimberly Wells' segment "California Close-Up" but the anchorman calls it "California Now."
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Michael Douglas' character says the film of the accident is 230 feet. Yet when he is running the film through the moviola at the station there can't be more than 40-50 feet on the takeup reel at the end of the footage.
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When meeting about what to do with the film the next day, a paper leans against Rich's coffee cup, but is gone a moment later.
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When Jack Godell scrutinizes the trace which illustrates the vibration he is so concerned about, the close-up of the trace shows a barely wavering line with one incident of more violent activity. In the longer shot, showing Godell holding the trace, the line fluctuates to a far greater extent over its entire length.
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When Jack sets down his coffee cup, just after the earthquake, the handle points towards the edge of the counter. In the close up the handle points to the corner.
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Crew or equipment visible 

During the opening credits sequence, the helicopter carrying the camera is reflected in the rear window of the Bronco.
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After Jack exits the freeway, his pursuers swerve off through the median; a black platform can be seen to give their vehicle a ramp for getting over the curb of the roadway.
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When Hector (the sound guy) is being pursued at high speed in his red car, (as he tries to hurriedly get the falsified X-rays to Jane Fonda), after the second bump from the car behind; there is a shot-change to the side of his car. In the reflection in the window of his car we can see a Panavision camera with a roll of movie film on top, filming the scene from a truck.
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Factual errors 

When a reactor is "SCRAM"ed it does not initiate the use of massive cooling systems. The SCRAM process is the rapid (4 second or less) insertion of the control rods into the core which shuts the reactor down by absorbing the neutrons. If the control rod SCRAM fails, then the reactor can be SCRAMed by using a neutron absorbing liquid injected into the core from pressurized tanks (no pumps.) Also, in addition to the cooling pumps, there is an Emergency Core Cooling System which injects a large amount of cooling water into the core if the primary colling system fails.
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In the United States, there are two main types of commercial power reactors: PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) and BWR (Boiling Water Reactor). In the scene where Gibson is explaining the basic workings of the plant to Kimberly Wells, the diagram on the board shows the former type, PWR. This is shown by the two loop system in which the water is pumped through the reactor under high pressure to prevent boiling, and then through a steam generator, or boiler, to create steam for the turbine using clean secondary water. In subsequent scenes, the dialog of the characters in the control room seems to suggest that they are dealing with a BWR system, where water is allowed to boil in the reactor vessel and steam is directly piped to the turbine, with no steam generator. Godell is concerned by the high water level in the reactor reaching the steam lines, of which there are none on a PWR reactor vessel. As well, in the action hearing later, the investigator talks about how the operators began cutting off feedwater and releasing steam in order to lower the reactor water level, which would only happen on a BWR.
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The emergency lights in the control room did not go on when the second plant accident occurred just after the SWAT team broke in. This was clearly for dramatic effect; in reality they would be on a backup power source just as the plant controls were.
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Revealing mistakes 

Michael Douglas's cameraman more than once supposedly films something - including the footage of the reactor control room - without having a battery pack connected to the camera. The camera simply wouldn't work without it. He also frequently uses the light meter incorrectly - the white dome has to be pointed towards the light source you are measuring.
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In the scene where Hector's car is forced over the cliff you can see that the gas tank has been removed when his car stops tumbling.
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Spoilers 

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

Jack's shirt displays a bullet hole a beat or two before you actually hear a gunshot at the very end.
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Continuity 

Jack immediately cocks the pistol when he takes it away from the security guard. Moments later, to emphasize his command to Ted, he cocks it again in closeup.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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