Uranium Derby

Uranium Derby

Uranium Derby is a feature-length documentary about a young woman's look into an experiment gone wrong-the American nuclear experiment. This film depicts the manner in which toxic nuclear waste, generated and collected in a few specific places, was allowed to spread to numerous sites around a small Midwestern university town and subsequently the country. The story, centered in Ames, Iowa, begins with a curious native filmmaker (Brittany Prater) casually looking into her hometown's highly secretive involvement in the Manhattan Project during the 1940s. The historical role of Ames in the production of materials for the first atomic bomb is portrayed in archival footage featuring two important involved scientists of the time (Dr. Harley Wilhelm and Dr. Frank Spedding). In addition, interviews with present-day physicists (Marv Anderson and Al Bevolo), a historian (Gloria Betcher), and the elderly spouse of a laboratory worker (Elizabeth Smith) also help present the story. The main character arc in the film is that of the Prater (the director) as she uncovers information that changes her perception of her hometown. Interrupting this history of World War II heroics is Dr. Johanshir Golchin, an Iranian- American environmental engineer who recalls coming across a document in 1992 entitled "The Tiger Team Report" during his time as an environmental regulator. This top-secret report by the US Department of Energy (DOE), detailed ten sites in the city of Ames that were contaminated with radioactive waste. After reading the report, Golchin's primary concern was for the site of the former Ames Waste Water Treatment Plant, where a youth sports complex was constructed. The filmmaker (Prater) visits an Ames neighborhood that suffered from a "cancer epidemic" in the 1990s. As she becomes further drawn into her research, she learns about the science behind different types of ionizing radiation, and the history of nuclear weapons development and production by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) after WWII. Physicist, Al Bevolo speaks to Prater about problems that the DOE (formerly AEC) has had with the private contracting firms it hired for toxic cleanup, and these firms' tendency to stall indefinitely the cleanup at Superfund sites. The story of the controversy and cover-up concerning the youth sports complex unfolds through both archival video footage and Dr. Golchin's present-day recollections. VHS footage of a town meeting reveals that the Ames Laboratory (run by the DOE) at one point flushed high-level radioactive waste down city's sanitary- sewer drains. This waste traveled to the treatment plant where it was eventually mixed with sludge that was given away to citizens as fertilizer for private gardens and crops. An archival interview with Harley Wilhelm (Ames leader in the Manhattan Project) confirms that most of the toxic waste generated during the war was buried in the woods near the "cancer cluster" neighborhood discussed earlier. After this site became publicly revealed about fifty years after the fact, it was hastily cleaned up and the waste sent to New Jersey. Much like a chain reaction (or fission), the film starts small with one town and builds to its national story and its unintended environmental consequences. The film follows the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as it evolves over time from its roots in the making of the bomb, to further weapons and energy production after World War II, eventually changing its name to the Department of Energy (DOE). The process that was invented in Ames was later taken over by Ohio Lead Company in Fernald, Ohio near Cincinnati. The aquifer at this site is now contaminated with radioactive waste.

Running Time
1 hours 28 minutes
480p, 720p, 1080p, 2K, 4K
Brittany Prater
Brittany Prater
Audio Languages
English, Deutsch, Français, Italiano, Español, Svenska, Gaeilge, Nederlands
日本語, Čeština, Tiếng Việt, Português, 한국어, Australia, Filipino, हिन्दी

Comments about documentary «Uranium Derby» (15)

Zachary Stephens avatar
Zachary Stephens

I thought it was good. I enjoyed it and it's a movie I'd watch again in the future.

Jane avatar

Great movie kept me on the edge of my chair

Anna Holmes avatar
Anna Holmes

I'm very pleased with my purchase.

Raymond avatar

I forgot I was watching a movie..

Jesse Torres avatar
Jesse Torres

Thank you for this move !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally some one did it something good !!!

Paul Mitchell avatar
Paul Mitchell

This was movie was phenomenal. Really really nice.

Willie avatar

So thankful for this film! I was sitting on the edge of the seat and couldn't look away from the screen

Elizabeth S. avatar
Elizabeth S.

Definitely would have picked this to win.