No matter the environmental documentary, from global warming to fast food production, most emphasize the negativity that arises from complacency and how it is up to humanity to get off the couch and change things. Ivy Meerpool's Indian Point espouses similar messages regarding nuclear power, but it too often keeps cutting off the ever sprouting tentacles of the octopus found in discussions of nuclear power.
In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster Americans have become increasingly concerned about their own nuclear power stability, with many plants located near major metropolitan areas. One such plant is Indian Point, which produces power for 6% of the population, mainly located in Manhattan and the surrounding New York area. But with no evacuation plans in case of emergency and questionable reactor conditions, is it only a matter of time before a Fukushima-level disaster hits New York?
Meerpool has three main agendas within Indian Point: 1) the lack of reliability regarding the Indian Point reactors 2) the inefficiency of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and 3) the long-term effects of nuclear run-off on local environments. The first and third points are blended well within the feature, as audiences are given inside looks at Indian Point, as well as its spent fuel pools and the local fish which are obviously flirting with radioactive elements. But the story within point two appears to be what Meerpool wants to focus on the most.
As far as what's revelatory in the documentary the biggest coup is getting an in-depth glimpse at Indian Point. You almost want to know how Meerpool and crew pitched this to the company considering how bad it makes them look. Employees at Indian Point discuss this life working with nuclear material. In fact, the head overseer of Indian Point calls it "my home. Everything else is my home away from home." It's hard to fathom how these employees feel a kinship with a place where even a simple itch of the face can leave them with radioactive contamination.
Footage of the reactors, ponds, and other working components are juxtaposed with well-informed members arguing with the NRC about closing the plant down. The company that owns Indian Point maintains a great portion of power comes from them to fill New Yorkers' homes with light, although it's alleged those numbers are inflated. Meerpool interviews members with valid critiques of the plant. These people aren't looking to outlaw nuclear energy. They simply want someone to tell them whether the reactor is running properly and what to do if something goes wrong, and since Indian Point is close to one of the largest, most densely packed locations in America, it's a valid concern.
The focus on Indian Point presents a compelling argument against nuclear power while honing in on the specific residents affected. But, possibly for fear of being too biased or to hit the 90-minute mark, Meerpool moves away from Indian Point to look at the NRC as a regulatory body and the downfall of former NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko. Jaczko comes off like a hero sacrificed on the altar of nuclear power - his resignation is amidst unfounded discrimination claims - and though he's the one face of the NRC the audience meets, his story distracts from the main narrative, especially when the story shifts to his return to the Fukushima plant, opening up an entirely different story probably worth of its own documentary.
"Everyone has their fingers crossed under the table" and Meerpool's Indian Point gives us compelling reasons for why the problems should be fixed. Frustrating in its focus, Indian Point still tells audiences why they should be wary of unchecked nuclear reactors in America without sensationalizing the subject. The story may not be unique for those who already abhor nuclear power, but the story here should terrify everyone.