Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant: The WikiBook/Dark Circle (Anti-nuclear Film)

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Dark Circle is a documentary film partially of the "expose" genre and otherwise highlighting anti-nuclear protest activity directed to the Diablo Canyon Power Plant on the California coastline. The nuclear plant is situated proximal to several earthquake faults and drew some of the largest protests of the seventies and eighties, including notables such as Jerry Brown, Jane Fonda and Jackson Brown. The point of view of the film is clearly favoring the protesters. The protesters contend, and the movie supports, the contention that the protests were responsible for the delayed licensing of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and, as a result of the delay, serious construction errors were made public before the plant went online and started producing power. The errors were putatively quite egregious in that the blueprints had been read backwards and systems intended for Reactor Unit 1 and Unit 2 were installed on the wrong plant. The film documents the protests with substantial up close footage including the moment that this information became known, and thus there is a certain triumphalism intermixed with a gloomy sense that nuclear power is, per the title, a Dark influence upon humanity.

Director Judy Irving's 1982 release is said to be "still powerful" long after its initial release. [1]

Protest leader Raye Fleming takes central role as she leaflets power plant workers going to work and later leads protesters. Two thousand people were arrested at the demonstrations, establishing a record for anti-nuclear civil disobedience in the US.


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0:30 A black and white clip from 1963 National Educational Television program giving basic information on the dangerousness of plutonium.

1:30 Geese fly by Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Female voice over speculates on radiologic hazards affecting animals.

2:30 Inside Diablo Canyon Power Plant

4:00 Federal government's early tests of reactor meltdown.

4:20 Idaho 1955 Nuclear Reactor Explosion Test

4:40 New Mexico 1965 Nuclear Reactor Explosion Test

4:55 Nevada 1965 - Actual explosion of an unshielded nuclear reactor, it's radioactive core blown to pieces and scattered to the atmosphere.

5:55 Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hearings, agenda limited to site specific matters.

7:45 Ray contacting workers at DCPP.

8:54 Quotes worker "None of the equipment or material or structures here would fail or be adversely effected by the earthquake."

9:30 "Is it possible to design and build anything with a sufficient degree of certainty and safety that you should go ahead and do it."

9:40 Diablo Canyon Anti-Nuclear Protest in San Luis Obispo, CA

10:00 60 local groups from across California formed a coalition to organize large scale highly visible opposition to Diablo.

10:15 California Governor Jerry Brown came out against Diablo.

10:25 In the end there was no time for rallies or marches. Back at Diablo Canyon's Main Gate, the human blockade began.

12:50 Blockading protesters.

13:15 Final preparations to start the reactor, then PG&E publicly admitted to backwards installation.

Allegedly "first of hundreds of mistakes"

14:50 Protesters taking credit for delaying start of plant prior to placement of the plant in service.

15:00 Analogy to frogs by Ray. "Boiling Frogs".

15:50 Rhetoric.

17:10 Comment by filmmaker, Judy Irving.


Scuttled by PBS

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The film was approved for national broadcast in 1985, but that decision was rejected a year later. Independent producers alleged censorship.[3] B.J.Bullert commented that the PBS/KQED decision "robbed a national public television audience" .[4][5] He extrapolates this critical remark to the media across the board and its failure to focus public attention on the putative biological hazard of nuclear power.[6]

Critical reception

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B.J. Bullert, in his title Public Television: Politics and the Battle over Documentary Film[7] lamented the scuttling of the national broadcase and stated that Dark Circle was outside of the mainstream in making assertions which are now widely accepted.Nat Katzman, former KQED station manager , quoted in Bullert's book, stated "It's more difficult to say ("Dark Circle") falsified anything, but it left one with the uncomfortable feeling that this is propaganda, not journalism.[8]

Point of view

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The film is clearly created to raise public alarm about the hazards of nuclear power, and putative shortcomings of the regulatory agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). However, there are numerous points in the film in which the voice heard are those of the workers, Pacific Gas and Electric management, and the attorney for the NRC

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[Eighteen minute excerpt ]