From NRC tapes, the five investigations, the authors' interviews (and computer-processing): a suspenseful, unsensationalized, present-tense reconstruction of the Three Mile Island drama. Rosen, now a ""60 Minutes"" producer, and Gray, engineer-author of The China Syndrome, lead off with a ""scram"" (automatic shutdown) at the Davis-Besse plant in 1977. We follow the unsuccessful efforts of NRC inspector Jim Creswell, who saw the frightening implications of the Davis-Besse accident, to correct the very problems that would cause a near-meltdown at TMI-2. NRC ineptitude and coziness toward the nuclear-power industry are exposed as Creswell is repeatedly reprimanded for being too hard on lax plant operations. ""You've got to give them a chance to clean up their act,"" he's told, ""before you start swinging a club."" Then, in the huge TMI-2 control room, hundreds of alarms simultaneously trip and 100 feet of control panels lights up ""like a Christmas tree."" Nothing happens that's supposed to happen. The operators are fighting the plant in a bewildering jungle of dials, some 600 or so flashing alarms, and, soon, a rising level of radioactivity. Gray and Rosen vividly convey the panic, and also manage to pin down the thinking and delineate the personalities. It would have been easy to pit the ""good guys"" against the ""bad guys (as in The China Syndrome); instead, we see struggling people--sometimes weak or cowardly--who are just trying to do their best. Not nearly as comprehensive, analytical, technical--or, ultimately, as damning--as Daniel Ford's Three Mile Island (p. 176); but for nuclear newcomers, whacking good reading and true-to-fact.