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Film exposes “regulatory capture” of USA’s NRC by the nuclear industry

Sundance Diary: “The Atomic States of America” Turns the Lens on Nuclear Power ONEARTH, BY BRUCE BARCOTT January 26, 2012 “……. The Atomic States of America, a film based partly upon her memoir, Welcome to Shirley.

McMasters’ book chronicled her childhood growing up in a blue-collar Long Island town next to the Brookhaven National Lab, one of the federal government’s leading nuclear research stations. In the 1990s, news broke (thanks to citizen activists and a local newspaper reporter) that Brookhaven’s three reactors regularly leaked deadly nuclear materials into the local water supply.

McMasters didn’t realize what was going on until college, when a roommate asked her, “Why are you always going home to all these funerals? What’s going on there?” The answer: Cancer, cancer, and more cancer.

Atomic States directors Sheena Joyce and Don Argott, who made the documentary Rock School in 2005, expand on McMasters’ material, looking at other nuclear power plant-adjacent communities and their chillingly similar experiences with radioactive leaks.

The great service of the film, besides being highly entertaining, is its unmasking of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Most people in towns near cooling towers had assumed the NRC was looking after their safety. Joyce and Argott make a devastating case against that assumption, showing how one more federal regulatory agency had turned into a puppet of the industry it was supposed to oversee. By the end of the film, the NRC was reminiscent of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) prior to the financial meltdown.

“At one of the documentary filmmakers forums over the weekend, we talked about this recurring theme of regulatory capture,” McMasters told me. “Again and again, we’re seeing the corporations that are supposed to be regulated take over the regulatory agency through money and politics.”

Nothing illustrates that so starkly in Atomic States as the shocking footage of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, bowing to the humiliating taunts of Representative Joe Barton, a republican from Texas who heads the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Barton demanded to hear Chu declare he had no second thoughts about the Obama administration’s plan to give loan guarantees to private companies to build new nuclear power plants. Chu complied. “That’s what I wanted to hear,” Barton chuckled. ….

January 27, 2012 - Posted by | Resources -audiovicual, secrets,lies and civil liberties

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