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Indian Point

The future of Indian Point and nuclear energy is debated in new documentary

INDIAN POINT (Ivy Meeropol, 2015)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Howard Gilman Theater
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Opens Friday, July 8

The Indian Point Energy Center has been fraught with controversy since it first opened in 1962 in Buchanan, New York, a mere forty-five miles from Midtown Manhattan. Documentarian Ivy Meeropol takes a close look at the past, present, and future of the embattled nuclear power plant in Indian Point, an important film that examines the complex situation from all angles. In the wake of Fukushima, eyes were once again cast at Indian Point, particularly as it approached its twenty-year recertification. Meeropol takes us inside the plant for a fascinating look at its operations, focusing on safety measures and literal and figurative cracks in the system. “This plant, in this proximity to New York City, was never a good risk,” Gov. Cuomo says in a press conference at the beginning of the film. Men and women on multiple sides of the issue speak with Meeropol, offering their take on what is happening. “Everyone has their fingers crossed under the table and they’re, like, let’s just hope nobody fucks up and they don’t have an accident,” says lawyer Phillip Musegaas of the watchdog organization Riverkeeper, which defends and protects the Hudson River. “We try to minimize that risk as much as we can. That’s our job,” explains Brian Vangor, a senior control room operator who has been working at Indian Point for more than thirty-five years. Somewhere in the middle is environmental journalist Roger Witherspoon, who notes, “For those who work in the nuclear industry, this is a ‘safe’ plant. For those who don’t work in the nuclear industry, there are risks you don’t want to live with.” Witherspoon is married to Marilyn Elie, a fierce activist who is part of IPSEC, the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition. But the most interesting individual in the film is Gregory Jaczko, who at the time of filming was the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and faces stiff opposition from within when he starts questioning Indian Point’s recertification.

Meeropol allows everyone to have their say as they discuss Indian Point’s outdated design, the flushing of more than 2.5 billion gallons of water into the Hudson every day, Indian Point’s safety record, clean energy options, and the frightening lessons learned from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. It also delves into the politics involved, as Jaczko tries to get at the truth, even visiting Fukushima, while he hits an unfriendly brick wall at home. Meeropol keeps everything civil despite the contentiousness of the topic. “This is not a film about whether nuclear power is good or bad,” she writes in her director’s statement. “What is this grand bargain we’ve made with ourselves to power the world and how can we make sure it doesn’t destroy us?” After the film was completed and being shown at festivals, it was reported this past February that the level of radioactivity in groundwater by Indian Point had spiked, leading to yet more inspections and investigations. A film that raises all the right questions, Indian Point opens at the Howard Gilman Theater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on July 8, with Meeropol taking part in Q&As following the 7:00 screenings on July 8 and 9 and the 5:00 show on July 10.

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