August 17th, 2019

Pandora’s Promise ****


Now Available on Netflix


I just watched an eye-opening documentary on Netflix about nuclear energy and how wonderful it is for mankind.

“Come on, Max. Why did you let yourself get bamboozled by that right-wing corporate propaganda?”

I didn’t. Believe it or not, this is an environmentalist movie. Made by environmentalists, for environmentalists.

The documentary’s narrators are five former activists who used to protest nuclear power plants until they learned the other side of the argument.

“If you are against nuclear power,” one narrator decisively concludes, “you are in favor of the expansion of burning fossil fuels for electricity.” That is the crux of the film’s argument. And it’s the inconvenient truth that most environmentalists don’t want to hear.

We have to get our electricity from somewhere. You may want to think that our demand for power can be met with solar panels and windmills. But that just isn’t the way the world works. The actual alternatives to nuclear power are natural gas, oil, and coal.

Especially coal. Old-fashioned, disgusting coal burning is the number one source of electricity for planet earth. And the amount we are burning isn’t falling; it’s skyrocketing. Only nuclear power plants can stop the coal fires from burning.

If you are concerned about global warming but instinctively suspicious about nuclear energy, “Pandora’s Promise” will give you a lot to think about.

Director Robert Stone doesn’t ignore the risks of nuclear meltdowns. He tackles the issue head on.

Older readers remember the 1979 incident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. What they may not remember is that nobody died. It was frightening, but ultimately not very destructive. And there hasn’t been an incident like it in the United States in the 35 years since.

People definitely did die in the dreadful nuclear explosion at Ukraine’s Chernobyl plant in 1986. Chernobyl is the ultimate weapon in the anti-nuclear activist’s arsenal.

The movie argues, however, that an incident like Chernobyl could not possibly happen in the United States. The Soviets failed to build a steel or lead containment structure around the reactor as is standard procedure in all American facilities.

Chernobyl was a deadly nightmare for the people working at the plant and an unimaginable horror for the clean-up workers who died of radiation sickness. But, surprisingly, its effect on the general population has been minimal.

The film demonstrates this by taking us to the town of Pripyat, Ukraine. In 1987, while the Soviet government was still blocking the roads, a handful of brave locals sneaked through the woods to return to their homes.

We see an interview with an elderly Eastern Orthodox clergyman who was one of the first to return. A quarter century of living in the shadow of the burnt out reactor has had no effect on his health or the health of his neighbors.

The future of nuclear power looks bright. Nuclear technology is advancing in exciting and earth-friendly ways. Newly built reactors can use the recycled nuclear waste from old reactors as fuel.

They can also use old nuclear weapons as fuel. In fact, this is already happening. According to film, half of the fuel used in American nuclear reactors is from dismantled nuclear warheads. Some people fear that more nuclear plants equals more nuclear weapons. Apparently the opposite is true.

“Pandora’s Promise,” as you can tell, is a propaganda film. It makes no effort to give equal time to the anti-nuke crowd.

But, propaganda or not, the film is very convincing. If you are concerned about global warming, you need to seriously consider the benefits of nuclear power.


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