Films on Nuclear Power

Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown

Documentary Frontline 2012 Feb28. Frontline continues its investigation of nuclear safety with an unprecedented account of the crisis inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011. With exclusive eyewitness testimony from key figures in the drama — including the Japanese Prime Minister and senior executives at the power company Tepco — Frontline tells the story of the workers struggling frantically to reconnect power inside the plant’s pitch-dark and highly radioactive reactor buildings; the nuclear experts and officials in the Prime Minister’s office fighting to get information as the crisis spiraled out of control; and the plant manager who disobeyed his executives’ orders when he thought it would save the lives of his workers. The story profiles the Japanese soldiers and firefighters drafted to cool the reactors, who were wounded when the reactor housings exploded; and the families living near the nuclear plant, who unknowingly fled in the same direction as the radioactive plume, exposing themselves to dangerously high radiation levels. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Feb28):

Japan’s Nuclear Reactor #4 Could Collapse

Chris Canine – who has 15 years experience as a health physics technician, chemist and radiation safety instructor – told Energy News that if number 4 reactor fuel pool at Fukushima collapses, Japan will be evacuated. He did not elaborate on how such a logistical nightmare would be accomplished. Canine worked at Fukushima in the late 1970s and has also worked at over twenty nuclear plants in the United States, Japan and Mexico. He wrote: There are several reasons why I believe the country will be evacuated if the badly damaged #4 SFP collapses, perhaps during another earthquake. The amount of radioactive material in the fuel pool dwarfs the total amount at Chernobyl by a factor of 5 to 10. Chernobyl’s core was still mostly contained in a building (although heavily damaged), and most of the radioactive material melted downward and became lava like. If #4 SFP collapses it will be lying on the completely open ground, probably going critical on and off in portions of the pile for years. The dose rate from this pile will make dropping sand or anything from the air much more lethal than anything at Chernobyl. And probably impossible. The entire site at Fukushima will be uninhabitable and unworkable because of the dose rate coming from this pile of fuel. That means there will be no control of the other fuel pools, and we could lose control of them. Nuclear experts will soft sell the ramifications because that is how the industry works. When the experts “have concerns” about the situation at #4 that means they are pooping their pants. Link to view film of Japan’s Damaged Nuclear #4 Reactor online free

Nuclear Aftershocks

Documentary Frontline 2012 Jan17. Frontline examines the implications of the Fukushima accident for U.S. nuclear safety, and asks how this disaster will affect the future of nuclear energy around the world. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Jan17):

The Battle of Chernobyl

Documentary 2005. The Battle of Chernobyl describes the Thursday 26th April 1986 that became a momentous date in modern history, when one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine, exploded. For the next seven months, 500,000 men waged hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy, radiation, to prevent a second explosion ten times more powerful than Hiroshima which would have wiped out more than half of Europe. It was the most significant reactor failure in the history of nuclear power, a Maximum Credible Accident (MCA). The plant, just 20 km away from the town center, was made up of four reactor units each generating an output of 1,000 megawatts. The reactor in question exploded due to operational errors and inadequate safety measures and the meltdown was directly linked to routine testing on the reactor unit’s turbine generators. The test required reactor activity and the thermal reactor output to be run down to a lower level. During the procedure, however, the reactor plummeted to an unexpectedly low and unstable level of activity. At this point, it should have been shut down; as the operators chose to continue with the test, the events subsequently proved to be catastrophic. More than 200 people died or were seriously injured by radiation exposure immediately after the explosion. 161,000 people had to be evacuated from a 30 kilometer radius of the reactor and 25,000 square km of land were contaminated. As time went on millions of people suffered radiation related health problems such as leukemia and thyroid cancer and around 4,000 people have died as a result of the long-term effects of the accident. Nobody was prepared for such a crisis. For the next seven months, 600,000 men waged hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy – a ruthless battle that has gone unsung, which has killed 13,000 of these unnamed and now almost forgotten heroes. Yet, it is thanks to these men that the worst was avoided; a second explosion, ten times more powerful than Hiroshima which would have wiped out more than half of Europe. This was kept secret for twenty years by the Soviets and the West alike. The total number of people killed and disabled by Chernobyl was never realized because of a cover-up by the soviets. See Full Review

Link to watch Battle of Chernobyl online free

Chernobyl: The Final Warning

Docudrama 1991 TV. True story about the tragic nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl. UCLA bone marrow specialist, Dr. Robert Gale, leads a medical team in treating victims of the Soviet nuclear power plant disaster.

Chernobyl Heart

Documentary 2002. On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear accident in history occurred when a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, releasing 90 times the radioactivity of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sixteen years later, award-winning filmmaker Maryann De Leo took her camera to ground zero, following the devastating trail radiation leaves behind in hospitals, orphanages, mental asylums and evacuated villages. The Academy Award-winning documentary short debuts immediately after the America Undercover special “Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable”. Following Adi Roche, founder of Ireland’s Chernobyl Children’s Project, Chernobyl Heart opens in the exclusion zone, the most radioactive environment on earth. From there, Roche travels to Belarus, home to many of the children she seeks to aid. The film reveals those hardest hit by radiation, including thyroid cancer patients and children suffering from unfathomable congenital birth and heart defects. Despite the fact that 99% of Belarus is contaminated with radioactive material, many people refuse to leave their homes behind. Asked why he would not move, the father of a radiation victim replies, “To leave the motherland where you were born and raised, where your soul is connected to the earth – I would not want to. To move to a new place is difficult, especially in terms of a job in Belarus and abroad.” In Belarus, only 15-20% of babies are born healthy. Roche comforts children who are born with multiple holes in their heart, a condition known in Belarus as “Chernobyl heart.” A lucky few will have their heart problems fixed by Dr. William Novick, who heads the International Children’s Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with congenital or acquired heart disease in developing countries throughout the world. After saving the life of a young girl suffering from Chernobyl heart and being humbled by her parents’ gratitude, Dr. Novick affirms, “I appreciate this is a bit of a miracle for them…but we have a certain responsibility to these kids.” Link to watch Chernobyl Heart online free

The Atomic States of America

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 32m. This documentary journeys through nuclear reactor communities to expose the truths and myths concerning the risks and benefits of the energy source. It reveals a lot of facts that we did not know about or were lied to about. We have already heard the good side of nuclear power and the promises that it is safe and perfectly regulated. I suspected there were problems and this documentary does confirm some of those problems. Kids were dying because of the industry lying and our do-nothing congress squelched the regulators even further due to extreme lobbying. These are all facts that we need to hear and were never told about. Excellent movie. After years of researching nuclear issues I can say this movie tells the truth, in the words of some of the most knowledgeable experts living today. Believe this movie!

Pandora’s Promise

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 26m. Former antinuclear activists and groundbreaking scientists speak out in favor of the much-maligned energy source in this provocative documentary. The film explains current data showing that 3rd and especially 4th generation nuclear plants are not only vastly safer than today’s plants, but actually will help to reverse some of the damage done to our environment and help to reduce the current, dangerous stockpile of nuclear weapons around the world. But what about the real problems that this doc just glosses over? What will really happen to long-term waste? (Just storing it all “out back” on site is not considered a serious or very secure solution.) How will developing and poor countries ever benefit from an energy source that has enormous startup costs and requires a modicum of industrial and scientific capability that also simultaneously worries the U.S.? (Primarily, the inherent political dangers of trying to enrich uranium, not to mention the engineering demands.) Are there solutions beyond long term evacuation to deal with serious accidents? (The film seems to give the impression that since people have illegally sneaked back into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone it can’t really be that dangerous.) The film answers these questions in its own way, and with rather dismissive indifference. So while the anti-nuke doc “The Atomic States of America” was less scientific, it was still somewhat more toned-down. And at least it was honest and open about how it felt, without having the uncomfortably optimistic salesmanship feeling of “Pandora’s Promise.”

India: The Cost of Yellowcake
Mining Uranium on Tribal Lands

The Indian government has been mining low-grade uranium on tribal lands for decades, but it plans to expand production so that nuclear power will eventually meet a quarter of India’s energy needs. The risks of pursuing that policy made international headlines in 2006 when a uranium waste pipeline burst in the east of the country, creating a devastating spill. Frontline/World Fellow Sonia Narang reports on how the mines are affecting the health and traditions of villagers, and forcing thousands off their lands.


Docudrama 1983 R 131 minutes. While working at an Oklahoma nuclear power plant, Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) becomes exposed to radiation. When the official investigation is tampered with, Karen conducts her own inquiry, but she disappears under suspicious circumstances before its completion. Kurt Russell co-stars in this fact-based drama, which was nominated for multiple Oscars and earned Cher a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her minimalist performance.

The China Syndrome

Thriller 1979 PG 122 minutes. TV reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) yearns to do hard news and suddenly gets her wish while she and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) are covering a routine story at the local nuclear plant. As they’re escorted through the power station, they observe (and covertly film) a near-meltdown. Working with a whistleblower (Jack Lemmon), Wells and Adams try to get the truth out, but corporate interests behind the scenes have other ideas. The plot suggests that corporate greed and cost-cutting “have led to potentially deadly faults in the plant’s construction” This drama about the dangers of nuclear power had an extra impact when the real-life accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant occurred several weeks after the film opened.

Nuclear Hurricane

Thriller 2007 NR 88 minutes. A renegade computer system cooks up some serious problems for the workers at a nuclear power plant, threatening to set off a meltdown at the same time that a giant hurricane is bearing down on the facility. Jack Scalia and Jamie Luner star in this hair-raising thriller that pits humans against the combined power of machines and nature as the plant employees put their lives on the line in a frantic bid to prevent a massive disaster.

Nuclear Reaction

Documentary Frontline 1997. Since 1978, no new nuclear power stations have been commissioned in the United States. Americans, once enthusiastic about nuclear power, now consider it one of the most serious risks to human life and health. But the American people’s aversion to nuclear power has perplexed many nuclear scientists who believe it poses only trivial risks to the public. Frontline correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Rhodes looks at what has derailed nuclear power in the United States and at the differing national attitudes toward nuclear power.

The Politics of Power

Documentary Frontline 1992. Frontline, in a co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting, examines the story of our nation’s failed energy policy. Journalist Nick Kotz investigates the role the Bush administration and key congressional committees played in creating a national energy policy that remains guided by special interests, calls for the controversial revival of nuclear power, and leaves America increasingly dependent on foreign oil supplies.

Global Dumping Ground

Documentary Frontline 1990. Correspondent Bill Moyers investigates America’s shadowy new industry-the international export of toxic waste-revealing how shipping deadly wastes to third-world countries has become an enormous business in the US.

See also:

Films on Nuclear Pollution


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