The Atomic States of America, directed by Don Argott and Shenna M. Joyce, is an emotional account of the safety of the numerous nuclear reactor sites in the United States. The documentary begins by describing the experience of Kelly McMasters living in Shirley, Long Island which is also the location of a nuclear reactor in the Brockhaven Laboratory. The documentary describes the McMasters investigation and conclusions in regards to the the spill of radiation in the drinking water for almost 40 years. The documentary then explores other recounts of individuals and communities affected by radioactive waste in the Northeast section of the United States, an investigation of the general safety of nuclear reactors across the country, and the inner workings of the United States National Regulatory Commission, Congress and ultimately the government’s lack of ability and initiative to provide a radioactive waste free environment surrounding many of these sites.
In 2010, the United States government proclaimed its intention to begin the construction of the countries first new nuclear power plant in 32 years. However, a year later, the 9.0 magnitude Japanese earthquake caused leakage of nuclear material into the surrounding community. This tragedy initiated the public debate about the safety of nuclear reactors. It is in this context, in which the documentary sets forth to explore the safety of nuclear power and unfortunately discovered that America’s need for power may unfortunately overlook the necessity of adhering to safety procedures.
The majority of the United States’ commercial reactors were built in the 1950s and 1960s. These plants were structurally only suppose to last for 20 to 30 years. However, despite taking the durability of the sites into consideration, the National Regulatory Commission (NRC) re-licenses such plants for thirty more years despite the aging internal structures of the reactors. Such an unfortunate phenomenon is due to the close relationship between Congress and the NRC. The documentary uncovers that the only instance in which the NRC did not re-license a nuclear reactor plant, in retaliation, the Congressman from the district in which the plant was located was instrumental in cutting the organization’s budget for the following year.
The documentary brings to light that this is not a dying issue, in which the public unfortunately regards as being irrelevant to our daily lives, simply because it is not projected as so through the different media platforms. The Atomic States of America exposes the truth and myths of the safety of nuclear reactor sites, the inside connections between Congress and the NRC, as well as the government's denial of possible disasters at nuclear sites. The documentary concludes with a rally in regards to the need of change in which safety is the top priority. As Kelly McMasters states, “We all live downstream from something.” It is for this reason in which every individual on the planet, must remember that they are not immuned from a possible nuclear reactor leakage and thus more must be done in order to protect not just Americans but whole world.