Definition of China syndrome in US English:

China syndrome


  • A hypothetical sequence of events following the meltdown of a nuclear reactor, in which the core melts through its containment structure and deep into the earth.

    • ‘It may have something to do with the China syndrome.’
    • ‘It'll be like the China syndrome, but reversed.’
    • ‘Hedge funds are derivatives on steroids, and the near collapse of one hedge fund nearly caused the financial equivalent of ‘the China syndrome.’’
    • ‘This is not a complete dissection of the flimsy arguments that underlie the country's China syndrome on nuclear weapons.’


1970s: from China (as being on the opposite side of the earth from a reactor in the US).