Radioactive Water: the Supersized Communication of Nuclear Issues in British Documentary
This presentation reports on a survey of archived film and television programs on nuclear power in the United Kingdom from 1947 to 2016. It discusses in particular the communication of environmental issues connected with water and the industry’s storage of waste products, both temporary and long term. In the case of the UK nuclear industries, histories of screen media can be discerned in works such as Jonathan Hogg’s British Nuclear Culture (2016) which discusses the intertwined discourses of the military and civil nuclear industries and their opponents. Ele Carpenter’s edited collection The Nuclear Culture Source Book (2016), accompanying the exhibition Perpetual Uncertainty at Bildmuseet Umeå University, Sweden in 2017 also gathers together a wealth of artists’ responses to nuclear issues, many of which include screen works. This paper contributes to this work through an analysis of a little over fifty non-fiction films kept in the BFI National Film Archive in London and at the Moving Image Archive of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, many of which are available to view online. The survey brings out the relationship between the nuclear industries and the communications industries. The list of non-fiction forms involved: instructional film, newsreel, promotional film, short documentary, television reportage, television debate, political broadcast, television documentary, independent documentary, entertainment documentary and art documentary in itself tells a story.