When former U.S. president Jimmy Carter began trending on Twitter recently, some users were understandably worried that it was going to mean mournful news regarding the 97-year-old Georgian. But Carter, a trained nuclear engineer, is still alive and kicking.
Instead, what set off the topic was a post on Facebook from the official page for The Historical Society of Ottawa, which on Dec. 14 recognized that Carter, as a young U.S. naval officer, led a team to avert a nuclear disaster following a partial reactor meltdown in Ottawa, Canada — which included lowering himself into a nuclear reactor.
The incredible event occurred 69 years ago this week, according to the post, and represented the world’s first nuclear reactor meltdown back on Dec. 12, 1952. The post also cited a CNN article chronicling what happened.
The then-28-year-old Carter reportedly had to lead a team of two dozen men to shut down, disassemble, and replace the damaged reactor, which had partially melted down and caused explosions after being flooded with thousands of gallons of water. The team rehearsed the removing and replacing of the parts on an exact replica in a tennis court before three-person teams, in 90-second shifts, made the repairs for real.
Carter and other members of his team were exposed to a thousand times more radiation than what is considered safe by today’s standards. The future president’s urine even tested positive for radioactivity six months after the event. The exposure caused longer-term health problems for him throughout his life and contributed to his policy decisions around trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
People were understandably blown away upon finding out that Carter voluntarily lowered himself inside a nuclear reactor to avert disaster.
One user also pointed out the former president is still active in the space of building houses for the needy, showing that radiation couldn’t slow him down one bit all these years later.
One user wasn’t afraid to throw the word “hero” around in regards to the cancer survivor and human rights advocate.
Another understandably questioned how Carter’s story has not been made into a Marvel movie by now.
If Carter’s real-life heroics don’t sound at least slightly reminiscent of something Captain America might do on screen, we’re not sure what will.