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The Atomic States of America: Sundance Film Review

The Atomic States of America

The Bottom Line

A sobering document about the dangers of nuclear reactor  and a downsized Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Directors

Sheena Joyce, Don Argott
 

Producer

Sheena Joyce

Alec Baldwin walks moviegoers through the unsettling dangers of nuclear reactors across the country.

Park City - Out of the way, rural communities are, not surprisingly, the sites for most of this country's nuclear reactors. In this probing documentary, filmmaker Sheena Joyce and Don Argott launch a dialogue about the recent nuclear-energy construction.

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Featuring an array of scientists, locals, government leaders and Alec Baldwin at his salivating best, The Atomic States of America calls attention to the potential for nuclear disaster at such sites. Begun a year before the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan, the project should play well on the festival circuit and, likely, land a cable deal -- the Discovery Channel and the Sundance Channel seem likely venues.

The film's most stirring and provocative segment features an anti-nuke local who has spent years opposing the plants, and whose front-eye view reveals some abominable lapses in security. At his home site, one entrance on the backside is unguarded.

In short, although the support for nuclear energy crosses the political spectrum from the green energy crowd, including a speech snip from President Barack Obama on its efficacy, to staunch conservatives, there are current dangers. The most frightening aspect is impotence of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is subject to political forces. The filmmakers provide examples of oversight inadequacy: One plant has been arrogantly allowing Tritium (a highly radioactive substance) to filter into the drinking water of a  community.

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It's a stimulating, well-made piece, smartly paced by editor Demian Fenton's astute cuts. At  present, an underground repository in the stony wilds of the Northwest has been shuttered by the current administration, and waste is being stored and builds up at the the respective plants. That will be the case until a definitive course can be charted on nuclear-waste disposal --  not comforting to know.

Section: U.S. Documentary Competition

Sales: Submarine Entertainment, RO*CO FILMS

Production companies:9.14 Pictures in association with H Prods.

Directors: Sheena Joyce, Don Argott

Based on the book by Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir From an Atomic Town by Kelly McMasters

Producer: Sheena Joyce

Director of photography: Don Argott

Music: West Dylan Thordson

Editor: Demian (cq) Fenton

No rating,  92 minutes.