Film festival exposes nuclear industry

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Film festival exposes nuclear industry

Review by Conrad Barnett

The Wild Spaces film festival, which kicks off around the country next week, features documentaries which expose the dangers to people around the world of the nuclear industry.

Just in case you aren't sure how seriously Pangea is considering an international radioactive waste dump in Australia, Wild Spaces is screening the company's promotional video. It explains why Australia is the best possible location. It also shows that the dump would mean large quantities of plutonium being shipped to Australia from around the world.

Nukes in Space II: unacceptable risk exposes the incredible gamble the US space agency took in launching the Cassini space probe. Despite the probe containing 32.8 kilograms of plutonium to power the on-board instruments, NASA sent it across Earth's orbit in a gravity-assisted manoeuvre to propel the device toward Saturn.

The film shows that, according even to NASA's predictions, an accident causing the probe to hit Earth could have endangered tens of thousands of lives. NASA's risk assessment predicted a one in a million chance of an accident, but this film provides evidence that the chance was more like 10%.

Nukes in Space II also draws the link between Cassini, the scheduled launch of more nuclear space probes and the US military's desire to place weapons in space. It shows that the controversial "Star Wars" program, begun under former president Ronald Reagan, may have had its name changed, but its funding remains very much intact.

The film includes interviews with activists protesting against these missions, and encourages viewers to oppose the unacceptable risks involved and NASA's dangerous intentions.

The Bells of Chernobyl examines the disastrous explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. It shows how ill prepared the Soviet authorities were to deal with such a disaster: evacuations were badly organised, workers sent to deal with the burning reactor had no experience, and clean-up operations often exacerbated the problem.

Six hundred thousand workers were involved in the clean up, and none were suitably shielded from the radiation. Around 125,000 people have died as a result of the explosion, and 2.5 million people still live in the affected areas. Among the survivors, radiation-related illnesses and fatalities are high.

Most of the region beyond the 30-kilometre exclusion zone is still used for agriculture, and local communities still rely on the land to make their living.

The film shows how supervisors at the plant were blamed for the disaster. Some were sent to prison despite ample evidence that the dangerous practices at the plant were directed by higher authorities and that design faults existed in the reactors' cooling mechanisms.

The remaining reactors at Chernobyl are still in use, and there have been many smaller accidents at these. The exploded reactor now rests under a giant concrete "sarcophagus" which is increasingly unstable.

The Wild Spaces film festival runs May 28-30 in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Fremantle, Geraldton, Darwin, Brisbane, NSW North Coast, Bowraville, Newcastle and the Blue Mountains. For full program details, visit the web site at <http://www.pnc.com.au/~wldspcs> or phone (02) 4787 5530.