China syndrome

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  • Hyphenation: Chi‧na‧syn‧drome


China syndrome (countable and uncountable, plural China syndromes)

  1. (idiomatic, nuclear physics, uncountable) A hypothetical kind of catastrophic failure in which a nuclear reactor melts through the floor of its containment system and penetrates the Earth's surface, continuing downward as if (from a Western Hemispheric point of view) traveling through the planet toward China.
    • 1971, Ralph E. Lapp, "Thoughts on Nuclear Plumbing," New York Times, 12 Dec., p. E11:
      The Ergen report contains an analysis showing that the high-temperature mass would sink into the earth and grow in size for about two years. . . . This behavior projection is known as the China syndrome.
    • 2002, Douglas Chapin et al., "Nuclear Power Plants and Their Fuel as Terrorist Targets," Science, vol. 297, no. 5589, p. 1997:
      The molten mass did not even fully penetrate the 0.5-cm cladding, confirming tests in Karlsruhe, Germany, and in Idaho, that the "China syndrome" is not a credible possibility.
    • 1983, Dorothy S. Zinberg, chapter I, in Uncertain Power: The Struggle for a National Energy Policy[1], →ISBN, page 43:
      The report judged the risks of catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents (known as core meltdowns or China syndromes) to be socially acceptable.
    • 2000, "Now It's Time to Figure Out Who Caused All the Y2K Fuss,", 11 Jan.:
      Contrary to accounts in the media, he states, "bugs of this nature don't cause China Syndromes or missile launches, at least not generally."
  2. (idiomatic, countable, sometimes fanciful) A behavior, policy, or situation characteristic of or involving China; an actual or potential catastrophe, especially one involving China.
    • 2005, Justin Lahart. "Ahead of the Tape," Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.), 6 Oct., p. C1:
      And then there is the China syndrome. . . . China now represents about 20% of Korea's total trade.
  3. (medicine) A rare disease, first characterized in the early 1990s, which resembles poliomyelitis but which has somewhat different characteristics and occurs in persons vaccinated for poliomyelitis.
    • 2006, Pan American Health Organization, chapter I, in Poliomyelitis Eradication: Field Guide[2], →ISBN, page 49:
      Unlike poliomyelitis, paralysis in China syndrome is symmetrical. In addition, cases are seasonal.


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