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Arts & Culture

Rob Edelman: Indian Point

At this time of the year, escapism rules in movie theaters. And this is understandable. It’s the summer, and people are searching for summer fun. Now granted, some seasonal theatrical releases are satisfying, but it’s been my experience that the majority are not. Yet the point here is that films that tackle serious issues are occasionally arriving onscreen. One of them, a documentary titled INDIAN POINT, not only is information-packed and provocative, but it is a film with a local connection.

The focus of INDIAN POINT is the nuclear power facility of the same name that is located north of New York City. Indian Point generates power to two million homes in The Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester and, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, a renewed debate over nuclear power and nuclear plant safety is rekindled. In so doing, two questions come to the fore: Can a similar catastrophe ever happen at Indian Point? And how might this be avoided?

The filmmakers are granted access to the innards of Indian Point and what goes on during the plant’s daily operation. Plus, they interview a range of individuals who put forth a range of views on nuclear power. They include everyone from workers at Indian Point-- a vice president of operations, a senior control room supervisor, a reactor operator-- to an environmental journalist and his wife, an anti-Indian Point activist. The most significant participant is the controversial chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose evolution is at the heart of the film.

When I began screening INDIAN POINT, I asked myself: What will be this film’s point of view? And it soon became clear that it is a tale of bureaucrats and bureaucracy on the one side and concerned and worried citizens on the other. There are those who stress the importance of nuclear power, and who reassure the public that nuclear power is risk-free. But are they beholden to the nuclear power industry? Are they motivated primarily by money, by profit? Are citizens being told the truth regarding nuclear power? Are they being lied to by their government? Is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission beholden to the nuclear industry?

And those who are anti-Indian Point question the plant’s safety. They are convinced that nothing short of the closing of the facility will avert catastrophe. They ask: Would you choose to live near a nuclear power plant? What risks are you willing to bear, for yourself and your family? Also, is there a workable evacuation plan here in New York and at other nuclear plants just in case of disaster?

At one juncture in INDIAN POINT, one of the interviewees offers a quote that is telling but not surprising, and one that resonates beyond the specifics that are dealt with here. That quote is: “The influence of industry in government is extreme right now.”

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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