Skip to content

In 10,000 years, we’ll know how it ends via the Harvard Gazette

On a recent afternoon at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Peter Galison did some quick math to make a monumental point.

“Ten thousand years ago,” the Pellegrino University Professor said from a seat in the Harvard Film Archive’s screening room, “Stonehenge was 4,000 years in the future. Stonehenge was science fiction far in the future. Ten thousand years is a long time.”

Galison’s calculation underscores one of the central themes in the documentary he co-directed with Robb Moss, chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. “Containment,” edited by Chyld King, is an unflinching look at the near-impossible task of disposing of nuclear waste from the country’s Cold War weapons buildup and exhausted nuclear reactor fuel assemblies.

It also asks: How do you warn future generations to avoid repositories that will remain lethal for 10,000 years or more?
The film, five years in the making, focuses on two U.S. facilities. One is the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which produced roughly 40 percent of the plutonium used in Cold War weapons. The documentary includes chilling archival shots of men tossing cardboard boxes labeled “radioactive waste” into shallow pits and covering them with dirt. A voiceover notes that in Savannah, “the whole idea of managing the nuclear wastes was really an afterthought.”
The film’s second focal point is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M. A deep underground geological repository licensed to dispose of radioactive waste, WIPP, Congress declared, could not be built until officials came up with a plausible marking plan that would warn people for 10,000 years not to dig there.
The dread of “Containment” is tempered by a deep sense of humanity. In 2011, well into production, a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami rocked the coast of Japan, crippling the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and leading to wide concerns about radiation exposure. Galison and Moss traveled to the region in May 2013.

“Going to Fukushima changed everything for us,” said Moss. “I don’t think we quite understood that until we went there. We didn’t quite know what we would encounter, but we had to experience being in a radioactive environment and what it did to the communities, and what it looked like.”


Read more.

Posted in *English.

Tagged with , , , , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.