San Onofre is on the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles

San Onofre is on the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles

Aerial view of San Onofre’s waste-dump-by-the-sea

Aerial view of San Onofre’s waste-dump-by-the-sea

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About the Film

A timely and urgent story with global implications

Filmed over eight years, SHUTDOWN (90 min.) documents how a Southern California community empowered itself to force the closure of a leaky nuclear power plant only to face an even more daunting challenge - what to do with the tons of high-level nuclear waste the plant generated - a major safety concern for all of America as dozens of aging nuclear reactors are decomissioned.

Alarmed by the 2011 Fukushima disaster, an urban planner with young children, an environmentalist couple, a university professor, and a retired systems analyst team up to convince the communities surrounding San Onofre to demand that Southern California Edison (SCE) put safety first at its nuclear reactors. Whistleblowers anonymously provide them information about serious safety violations at the plant. 

The communities battle the giant utility and ultimately win the fight to close the ocean front nuclear power plant, located in a densely populated earthquake and tsunami zone between San Diego and Los Angeles. But they soon discover the lethal threat isn't over. Just yards from the rising sea, over 3 million pounds of high level nuclear waste created on the site is being dumped into thin, damaged canisters, each containing roughly a Chernobyl’s worth of radioactivity.

After the shutdown, another brave whistleblower comes forward and confirms continued horrendous mismanagement of the waste. He reveals that a 54-ton container of intensely irradiated fuel was almost dropped 18 feet onto cement below, which many believe could have caused a major radioactive disaster in the area, home to 8.5 million people.

SHUTDOWN chronicles the persistent efforts of these five people to grapple with a reckless utility inattentive to the severe perils of the lethal waste it must manage, a Federal regulatory agency (NRC) that is in the pocket of the nuclear industry, state agencies that permitted the radioactive dump to be on the beach, shady waste contractors looking for profit, and a government push to move all nuclear waste to another site across the country and dump it on low income communities of color.

As nuclear reactors are phased out in America, how do we insure that public safety is the top priority and not profit? How can we safely manage essentially forever the thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste over 100 nuclear power plants generated? And what lessons can we learn as nuclear proponents push for yet another generation of nuclear reactors?

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