One of the alternatives that is touted to our dwindling oil supplies is, of course, nuclear power. In many ways it looks attractive – enormous amounts of energy can be produced and fairly economically during our time, but this film will make you think at least twice about nuclear fuel.
Because there is definitely a cost involved, and this is one of the first documentaries that tackles the problem of nuclear waste, which is a by-product of the energy production process. The waste is highly radioactive and is expected to be so for at least 100,000 years.
What to do with it? There have been various proposals, including sending it by rocket into the sun – the problem is the material is so dangerous, it is too risky to do anything with it. What if the rocket blew up on the launch pad?
In fact nuclear waste isn’t safe to transport anywhere very far away from its production because the risks are too high. So at present there are only interim solutions. The waste is stored in above-ground tanks, which have to be constantly and securely maintained – there has to be power, no earthquakes, no terrorist attacks, no collapse of civilisation, etc.
And there is already 250,000 tons of waste being held in these insecure tanks.
In Finland they are building the first “permanent” solution to the disposal of nuclear waste at the underground facility at Onkulor, and this documentary explores the thinking behind it and such problems as: Will our successors understand what has been placed there, and realise that it is extremely hazardous?
What is being sought as the narrator says at one point is to find a hiding place (the very meaning of the word Onkulor) for the fires to burn into eternity. Can this really be done? Whether it can or not the waste is already produced and something has to be done with it.
The film by Michael Madson is almost visionary in its production and very surreal at times as ordinary men and women reflect on what it means to try and safely dispose of something that is so very deadly to all living systems and has to be secured for such an inconceivably long time.
The film eventually becomes a meditation on much deeper things and more universal themes such as impermanence and memory, besides looking at the strictly ethical considerations like our responsibilities to future generations.
When compared with renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave power, one wonders why anyone would want to sink their time and effort, let alone their money, into such a risky and potentially destructive source of energy.
If the same amount of resources were given over to sustainable energy sources as is being given to the exploitation of dangerous and finite resources like oil, coal and nuclear we could surely find a safer way forward.
Much more information can be found on the Into Eternity website, where it is also possible to buy the DVD.
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Some Stills from the Documentary