Can we contain some of the deadliest, most long-lasting substances ever produced?
Left over from the Cold War are a hundred million gallons of radioactive sludge, covering vast radioactive lands. Governments around the world, desperate to protect future generations, have begun imagining society 10,000 years from now in order to create monuments that will speak across time.
Part observational essay filmed in weapons plants, Fukushima and deep underground—and part graphic novel—Containment weaves between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled far future, exploring the idea that over millennia, nothing stays put.
Sometimes we face problems that are optional. We could decide to send people to Mars. But we could also decide not to.
Or we could postpone the decision by twenty or fifty, a hundred years, even five hundred years. What we, as filmmakers, found so absorbing about nuclear waste is that the problem is not like Mars: it is absolutely necessary that we deal with seventy years of nuclear neglect from the byproducts of making weapons and power.
But necessary does not mean easy or even crystal clear: the task is staggeringly difficult and expensive.
The possibility of leaks or fires or explosions, makes ignoring it impossible.
Much radioactive waste remains dangerous for tens of thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands, of years.
We want to control this material, we want to believe that we can engineer the titanium cases, casks, and mines to box it up and keep it away from us.
But because the waste does last such a long time, the Unites States Congress demanded that, when the nuclear agencies bury the waste, they find a way to warn the future for a period not less than ten thousand years: don’t dig here.
Responding to Congress, one of the nuclear weapons laboratories asked the reasonable question:
What might future threats be?
What kind of situations might lead the future to intrude into these underground repositories?
And how could we avoid it?
Why we selected this film
How to decontaminate a highly contaminated site and what to do with the radioactive waste?
This documentary interspersed with cartoons, projects us into an imaginary future and asks the question of what becomes of the waste that the nuclear industry generates.
Helped by Fukushima survivors’ accounts and the example of the stocking/decontamination Savannah River site, it brings up uncertainties and questions about managing a material that remains toxic for 250,000 years and a problem that goes beyond what we are capable of dealing with at this moment.
Starting with a very “down to earth” problem, this film invites a philosophical discussion about the end of mankind and the ways to communicate with whoever/whatever will replace us on this planet.