Journey to the Safest Place on Earth

An expedition through a collective nightmare

Over the last 60 years, more than 350,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste has been amassed the world over. This material must be deposited for thousands of years in a safe place, i.e. one that will not harm humans or the environment. However, such a repository has yet to be created and the production of nuclear waste continues unabated. Swiss-based nuclear physicist and internationally renowned repository specialist Charles McCombie and some of his most important allies provide director Edgar Hagen with insight into their persistent struggle to find the safest place on earth in order to resolve this grave dilemma.

Edgar Hagen’s film raises a huge range of questions about how we are dealing with the situation today and our responsibility to future generations. If there is no other choice, is it possible to force through such a project against the wishes of local residents and, if so, is this a wise solution?

"Journey to the Safest Place on Earth" is a divisive undertaking, leading us to the ends of the earth. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that there is no quick fix to this conflict. "Journey to the Safest Place on Earth" throws doubt on our established views of the world and takes us to the limits of knowledge and social responsibility.

Notes from the Director (Edgar Hagen)

Since we began using nuclear energy for civilian consumption in 1956, we have been faced with a dilemma: although we produce „clean electricity“, we are also producing the most dangerous kind of waste. The highly radioactive nuclear waste material endangers us for millennia. Currently around the world, there are roughly 350,000 tonnes of nuclear waste, and roughly 10,000 tonnes are added each year. The waste is stored provisionally in cooling basins at the site or in temporary storage facilities deep under ground. Total chaos would reign if an uncontrolled chain reaction were to suddenly occur, like an atomic bomb. In March 2011, Fukushima gave the world a taste of the destruction.

The political strategy to cope with this dilemma, is the following: to find a final storage solution in all nuclear-energy producing countries. This location must be totally off-limits to all future generations. This location cannot be anything less than the „safest place in the world“. For decades, scientists and specialists have been searching for such places, very often they are rejected.

With this film, I attempt to discover the safest place on Earth. The people, who wish to solve this problem for the benefit of all mankind, are at the center of this film. The protagonist, Charles McCombie, has been involved in this mission for 35 years and is unrelenting in his optimist mission to find the safest place on Earth. In the film, for which he exclusively opens doors to places that are not accessible to the public, he meets fellow travelers and some of his sharpest opponents.

This is a journey through the deepest layers of collective displacement. Despite decades of unsuccessful search for practical disposal sites, the production of highly radioactive waste continues unbroken. There is an almost religious belief that all will be well. The repression of the problem is favored by the fact that the radioactive material has to be temporarily locked away for security reasons in tabooed, disregarded territories that are accessible only under the most difficult conditions. Capturing our own images of the life threatening material was the most difficult endeavor of this journey. The film was also a permanent struggle to expose this waste. Through this struggle my insight grew and I found that the safest place can only be found once we collectively succeed in opposing the pressure of economic constraints and not prematurely misunderstanding claims as ultimate scientific truths.

This film travels to the ends of the Earth to find the answers we are looking for.

Director(s): Edgar Hagen
Script: Edgar Hagen
Production: Mira Film GmbH, Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft SRG SSR, Hercli Bundi
Music: Tomek Kolczynski
Actors: Charles McCombie, Marcos Buser, Gregg Butler, Neil Patterson, Bruce McKirdy, Russell Jim, Steve Frishman, Ian Zabarte, David Pentz, Wendell Weart, Bob Forrest, Wolfgang Ehmke, Jacob Spangenberg, Marie Berggren, Johan Swahn, Ju Wang, Ba Gen Na
Year: 2013
Duration: 111 min
Our age recommendation: 14
Language (audio): Japanese, German, English, Chinese
Language (subtitles): German, French, English
Country of origin: Switzerland
Shooting Locations: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, China, Japan, Australia, United States, Sweden, United Kingdom
Screening rights: Autlook Film Sales () | LookNow! (Switzerland) | Thimfilm (Austria) | W-Film (Germany)

Further reviews


Main topic(s): Energy
Secondary topics: atomic energy externalisation
Mentions: nuclear atomic radioactivity radioactive waste nuclear waste atomic waste nuclear waste disposal residual waste NAGRA contamination
Topic Page(s): Energy


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