Offers a general, yet unsettling look at the potential for disaster just north of NYC.
Indian Point (Tribeca Review)
Indian Point, making its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, gets its name from the Indian Point nuclear power plant that resides less than 40 miles north of New York City. The documentary from Ivy Meeropol takes a comprehensive look at the tenuous situation surrounding the future of the nuclear reactors in relation to the over 20 million Americans that live near the plant. While the problems regarding the implementation of nuclear power are far-reaching, Meeropol’s documentary takes a focused look at the situation in Buchanan, New York, as she follows several residents whose everyday lives concern Indian Point.
As the film begins, Indian Point looks as if it’s attempting to document the lives of the people who work at the power plant. Meeropol showcases the daily routine of Indian Point’s control room supervisor, as well as a couple other plant employees, who vouch for the safety of their plant. To a nuclear plant worker, it’s about risks versus perceived risk, and the risks appear minimal from the inside. The film’s scope then widens when it introduces Roger Witherspoon, an environmental journalist who has covered Indian Point for decades.
His wife, a local environmental activist named Marilyn Elle, is another prominent figure in the film. Like her husband, Marilyn attends any public hearing on Indian Point; however the couple insists on arriving separately so as to maintain professional integrity. Marilyn rails against the company and the Nuclear Regulatory Committee while Roger sits back, reporting. The interviews with Witherspoon and Elle provide the majority of Indian Point’s case against the continued existence of nuclear facilities, mining their years of immersion with the issues for a deep understanding of each side’s talking points.
Between Indian Point’s employees and the combination of Roger and Marilyn, the majority of the documentary’s interviews come from residents of the Buchanan area that have spent decades steeped in the debate over the nuclear site’s future. Condensing years of disputes makes parts of Indian Point feel like a bit of a general overview, which can be frustrating when an interviewee mentions structural damage as if were just in passing. Gradually, Indian Point’s seemingly even-handed approach fades, as informational screens warn of the immense dangers that nuclear power plants pose.
After Indian Point profiles a series of locals, the documentary turns its attention to the bureaucratic logjam disrupting progress on handling nuclear facilities throughout the country. In the wake of 2011’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the United States’ attention turned to its nuclear power plants, but none more threaten to harm a larger population than Indian Point. Former NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko plays a pivotal role in the documentary’s latter part; however, his interview appearance is surprisingly brief. During his chairmanship, Jaczko pushed for rapid changes to US nuclear policy before getting pushed out of his job. For Indian Point, he’s a particularly authoritative figure on the subject, and it might have been beneficial to get more of his insight. The documentary keeps its focus on Indian Point, the company that owns the facility, and the people most directly impacted by the nuclear site.
Indian Point outlines a lot of frightening aspects of real danger, but at points the approach feels like a bullet point summary of relevant topics. Several shocking revelations about Indian Point’s safety concerns are glanced over without a descriptive explanation of the problem. However, Meeropol includes such a litany of reasons against the continued use of nuclear reactors in Buchanan that her documentary becomes deeply chilling. Indian Point offers limited bits of information on many disconcerting facets to the Indian Point nuclear plant, creating a persuasive argument for greater scrutiny in our approach to nuclear.