Dark Circle is a transformative documentary centering around the struggles activists faced during the early days of Diablo Canyon and Rocky Flats Weapons Plant. The Rocky Flats portion of the film centers around a young mother trying to keep her children safe in the face of life-altering radiation. The Diablo Canyon portion shows Mothers for Peace (MFP) fighting back against the launch of the plant’s operations. MFP utilized various efforts of peaceful protest, like handing out flyers to workers as they arrived at the plant and, later in the documentary, forming human chains in the road to prevent supply trucks and technicians from being able to reach the plant.

The protest efforts highlighted reminded me of the Snake River Alliance’s early days and our founders’ activist work. In the 1970s, Idahoans stood in silent protest against transporting the plutonium-contaminated waste from Rocky Flats in Colorado to INL. They watched on bitterly cold nights in the Idaho Desert, protesting in hopes of a better future. Today, while the world may look different, our goal as an organization is the same as it was 40 years ago. 

The film highlights several activists’ heroic efforts to keep their loved ones and communities safe while fighting a Goliath-like entity. Time after time, activists are belittled, laughed at, and ignored by more mainstream interests (the neighbors around Rocky Flats, the workers at Diablo Canyon, elected officials, and plant workers) but continue their fight. Delays (protestors working to prevent workers from entering the plant by lying in the street and forming human chains) and heightened scrutiny that Diablo Canyon protestors brought to the project likely helped prevent a wide-scale disaster. During the filming and before the plant went online, a technician onsite noticed that the earthquake supports had been installed backward, so the plant launch was delayed to fix this error. 

Though the film was released in 1982, the message remains timely. The threat from nuclear weapons and power is more present than ever- with the continuing war in Ukraine and the proposed construction of new nuclear reactors worldwide, we will likely have a resurgence of previous problems, if not worse. Continuing education and advocacy about the dangers of both the peaceful and wartime atom is more paramount than ever, especially with the intensely worsening climate crisis.