We Are the Guinea Pigs (1980)

Genres - Culture & Society, Science & Technology  |   Sub-Genres - Environmental Science, Illnesses & Disabilities, Medicine, Politics & Government, Social Issues  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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On March 28, 1979, the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania had an accident that vented radioactive materials into the environment. This documentary came out slightly more than a year after the accident and reveals that the release of radioactive water and air from the plant is not only continuing, but will continue in the future. The multiple scientists interviewed by director Joan Harvey say that the clean-up of the reactor and contaminated buildings (begun nearly two years after the accident), will mean the release of all of the radioactive gases and one million gallons of radioactive water into the environment, with unknown effects on the people in the region. A pediatrician notes that the body of one of his patients was giving off 50% more radiation than the normal background reading - and he cannot predict what effect that will have on the boy because no one has ever handled this type of problem before. (Actually, the Japanese have had extensive experience with radiation sickness after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was found that people continued to die of radiation sickness even 40 years after exposure.) Poignant interviews with ordinary people who live near the power plant make vividly clear their own well-founded fears about sterility and birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses that are known to result from radiation exposure. In the second half of the documentary, government officials downplay the potential effects of the disaster, while scientists and other professionals dispute their dismissal of health risks to the nearby population. Although there is a lot of data bandied about in this second half, the documentary still has its impact simply because of its contents.

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Keywords

environmentalism, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), nuclear, nuclear-accident, nuclear-energy, nuclear-power-plant, nuclear-reactor, nuclear-scientist, nuclear-waste, pollution, radiation, radioactive-waste