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  • Power Plant Employment


    Jörg Markowitsch

    Movies and documentaries on reactor disasters were trending last year. 10 years since Fukushima and 35 years since Chernobyl rolled the carpet out. For a true insight into the working world of nuclear power plants, however, I do recommend going further back, to Volker Sattel's "Unter Kontrolle" (2011).

    From the terrace of my house, I have a view of Austria’s only nuclear power plant, which, as some may know, was never activated. From a distance, it looks like the shed of the coal-fired power station next to it, which was built as an alternative.

    As an Austrian, I auto­ma­ti­cal­ly associate nuclear power plants (NPP) with vacancy. Photos of the interior I am aware of show the impres­si­ve control room either abandoned or as a backdrop for fashion shoots. Ever­ything I had known about working at nuclear power plants, I owe to Homer Simpson and his col­leagues Carl Carlson and Lenny Leonard.

    From Volker Sattel’s multi-award-winning docu­men­ta­ry “Unter Kontrolle” (2011) I learned that the Germans also managed the pointless feat of building nuclear power plants that never went into operation (e.g. Greifswald).

    The film assembles exterior and interior shots of German nuclear power plants in an impres­si­ve Cine­ma­scope format into one big whole, dis­pen­sing with the explana­to­ry narration and rather sparsely using inter­views. Sattel skill­ful­ly composes the film showing the destinies of these nuclear power plants in various states of use or misuse: Greifs­wald serves as a training center, Stendal is in the process of being dis­mant­led and “Schneller Brüter” in Kalkar has been converted into an amusement park. Bolstered by shots of nuclear waste canisters, the Inter­na­tio­nal Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, nuclear research labo­ra­to­ries and the annual German nuclear power con­fe­rence, the film provides an overall view of the civilian nuclear-indus­tri­al system.

    The nuclear world as docu­men­ted by the camera is pre­do­mi­nant­ly male. It is through male sci­en­tists, tech­ni­ci­ans and radiation pro­tec­tion spe­cia­lists that the viewer expe­ri­en­ces the power plant workplace: doing main­ten­an­ce work, attending team meetings, serving-up food in the canteen, dressing them­sel­ves in the locker room and doing the laundry.

    The film, which was completed immedia­te­ly before the Fukushima disaster and the­re­af­ter received increased attention, initially focused on safety aspects alone. In contrast to what the experts in the film were saying, however, the images, which kind of resemble outdated science fiction films, are unable to convey that ever­ything is “under control” here. On the contrary, one has the queasy feeling of being equally at the mercy of tech­no­lo­gy and “acts of god”.

    Later, the focus of the film shifts to the disposal, dis­mant­ling and after-use of nuclear power plants. It becomes clear that the need for radiation pro­tec­tion spe­cia­lists is equally outdated. In com­pen­sa­ti­on, they are reskilled as spe­cia­lists in power plant dis­mant­ling. The film “Unter Kontrolle” is thus also an early and excellent example of the deve­lo­p­ment of the need for “green skills”. However, the values and acti­vi­ties of nuclear power plant employees, which have been reshaped by social and political changes, yet the personal chal­len­ges and bit­ter­ness that accompany them, are only touched on in passing.

    In February 2011, “Unter Kontrolle” premiered at the Berlinale, in March, the nuclear disaster in Japan occurred, in May, the film was released, in June the Bundestag decided to end the use of nuclear energy in Germany by 2022.

    Just at the beginning of this year, the EU declared nuclear power to be “green”. This is unpar­al­leled chutzpah that under­mi­nes decades of envi­ron­men­tal efforts. Those respon­si­ble are therefore advised to watch “Under Control” or if they are more of the action-movie type the excellent HBO series “Chernobyl” (2019), the feature film “Fukushima 50” (2020) or the no less exciting docu­men­ta­ry version “Fukoshima: A Nuclear Story’ ” (2015).

    I thank my friend Christian Nagl for singling out Volker Sattel’s film.

     

    „Unter Kontrolle“ (2011), Volker Sattel, Trailer 

    Chernobyl, 2019, Trailer 

    Fukushima 50, 2021, Trailer 

    Fukoshima: A Nuclear Story, 2015, Trailer 

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Tags

    Power Plant Employment

    Jörg Markowitsch

    Movies and documentaries on reactor disasters were trending last year. 10 years since Fukushima and 35 years since Chernobyl rolled the carpet out. For a true insight into the working world of nuclear power plants, however, I do recommend going further back, to Volker Sattel's "Unter Kontrolle" (2011).

    From the terrace of my house, I have a view of Austria’s only nuclear power plant, which, as some may know, was never activated. From a distance, it looks like the shed of the coal-fired power station next to it, which was built as an alternative.

    As an Austrian, I auto­ma­ti­cal­ly associate nuclear power plants (NPP) with vacancy. Photos of the interior I am aware of show the impres­si­ve control room either abandoned or as a backdrop for fashion shoots. Ever­ything I had known about working at nuclear power plants, I owe to Homer Simpson and his col­leagues Carl Carlson and Lenny Leonard.

    From Volker Sattel’s multi-award-winning docu­men­ta­ry “Unter Kontrolle” (2011) I learned that the Germans also managed the pointless feat of building nuclear power plants that never went into operation (e.g. Greifswald).

    The film assembles exterior and interior shots of German nuclear power plants in an impres­si­ve Cine­ma­scope format into one big whole, dis­pen­sing with the explana­to­ry narration and rather sparsely using inter­views. Sattel skill­ful­ly composes the film showing the destinies of these nuclear power plants in various states of use or misuse: Greifs­wald serves as a training center, Stendal is in the process of being dis­mant­led and “Schneller Brüter” in Kalkar has been converted into an amusement park. Bolstered by shots of nuclear waste canisters, the Inter­na­tio­nal Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, nuclear research labo­ra­to­ries and the annual German nuclear power con­fe­rence, the film provides an overall view of the civilian nuclear-indus­tri­al system.

    The nuclear world as docu­men­ted by the camera is pre­do­mi­nant­ly male. It is through male sci­en­tists, tech­ni­ci­ans and radiation pro­tec­tion spe­cia­lists that the viewer expe­ri­en­ces the power plant workplace: doing main­ten­an­ce work, attending team meetings, serving-up food in the canteen, dressing them­sel­ves in the locker room and doing the laundry.

    The film, which was completed immedia­te­ly before the Fukushima disaster and the­re­af­ter received increased attention, initially focused on safety aspects alone. In contrast to what the experts in the film were saying, however, the images, which kind of resemble outdated science fiction films, are unable to convey that ever­ything is “under control” here. On the contrary, one has the queasy feeling of being equally at the mercy of tech­no­lo­gy and “acts of god”.

    Later, the focus of the film shifts to the disposal, dis­mant­ling and after-use of nuclear power plants. It becomes clear that the need for radiation pro­tec­tion spe­cia­lists is equally outdated. In com­pen­sa­ti­on, they are reskilled as spe­cia­lists in power plant dis­mant­ling. The film “Unter Kontrolle” is thus also an early and excellent example of the deve­lo­p­ment of the need for “green skills”. However, the values and acti­vi­ties of nuclear power plant employees, which have been reshaped by social and political changes, yet the personal chal­len­ges and bit­ter­ness that accompany them, are only touched on in passing.

    In February 2011, “Unter Kontrolle” premiered at the Berlinale, in March, the nuclear disaster in Japan occurred, in May, the film was released, in June the Bundestag decided to end the use of nuclear energy in Germany by 2022.

    Just at the beginning of this year, the EU declared nuclear power to be “green”. This is unpar­al­leled chutzpah that under­mi­nes decades of envi­ron­men­tal efforts. Those respon­si­ble are therefore advised to watch “Under Control” or if they are more of the action-movie type the excellent HBO series “Chernobyl” (2019), the feature film “Fukushima 50” (2020) or the no less exciting docu­men­ta­ry version “Fukoshima: A Nuclear Story’ ” (2015).

    I thank my friend Christian Nagl for singling out Volker Sattel’s film.

     

    „Unter Kontrolle“ (2011), Volker Sattel, Trailer

    Chernobyl, 2019, Trailer

    Fukushima 50, 2021, Trailer

    Fukoshima: A Nuclear Story, 2015, Trailer

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Unter Kontrolle, 2011, still

    Tags


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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.