Independent Lens: Containment

About This Episode


How can we contain some of the deadliest, most long-lasting substances ever produced? Toxic remnants from the Cold War remain in millions of gallons of highly radioactive sludge, thousands of acres of radioactive land, tens of thousands of unused hot buildings, and some slowly spreading deltas of contaminated groundwater. Governments around the world, desperate to protect future generations, have begun imagining society 10,000 years from now in order to create warning monuments that will speak across time to mark waste repositories.

Containment moves from a nuclear weapon facility in South Carolina where toxic swamps have led to radioactive animals, to a deep underground burial site in New Mexico, to Fukushima, Japan, where a triple meltdown occurred after the cooling systems at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant were interrupted, leaving that city a ghost town. The film is part graphic novel and part observational essay mixed with sci-fi that is more science than fiction, weaving between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled distant future, exploring the struggle to keep waste confined over millennia.