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The Controversy Over This Documentary Is Likely to Burn Very, Very Hot


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JL
- 555 days ago - takepart.com
Veteran filmmaker Robert Stone's 'Pandora's Promise' argues that new nuclear reactors need to be part of our energy solution.



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JL A. (272)
Saturday January 19, 2013, 10:17 am

The Controversy Over This Documentary Is Likely to Burn Very, Very Hot
Veteran filmmaker Robert Stone’s ‘Pandora’s Promise’ argues that new nuclear reactors need to be part of our energy solution.
By Jon Bowermaster
January 14, 2013
Comment
The Controversy Over This Documentary Is Likely to Burn Very, Very Hot
(Photo: Peter Baker/Getty Images)

The most controversial documentary showing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is perhaps Pandora’s Promise, a full-throated defense of nuclear energy as the ultimate solution to the planet’s rising energy needs.

"We need pragmatism on climate, not to trap ourselves into ideological positions where some low-carbon energy sources are “bad” and others “good.”"

The film is by prolific documentarian Robert Stone, whose anti-nuclear, Oscar-nominated Radio Bikini premiered at Sundance in 1998, as did Earth Days, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst and, as cinematographer, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

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Supported by interviews with converted environmentalists who now see the benefits of a “new nuclear” energy, the film builds on what Stone has identified as a groundswell of support for nukes—which, until the accident at Fukushima, included President Obama and many in Washington, D.C.

“I see nuclear power as something the left and the right could compromise on,” says Stone, to TakePart in an exclusive interview. “Greens need to come around on this issue and conservatives need to come around on the climate change issue. Otherwise we’ll just keep burning more fossil fuels, particularly coal.”

It’s obviously a hot-button subject. The film’s premiere and four other screenings in Park City are sold out. Stone promises the film delivers both a thorough history of nuclear power in the U.S. going back to 1945 and is supported with new testimonies from some leading environmental activists whose previous opposition to nuclear energy has lessened.

Since the Manhattan Project began in the late 1930s, nations have dabbled with nuclear power and fuel refinement. There have, however, been quite a few mishaps, accidents and tragedies. Click here to check out the 11 worst nuclear energy accidents in history.

“What if everyone has nuclear power wrong?” asks Stone. “What if nuclear power is the only energy source that has the ability to stop climate change?”

In a telephone conversation last week, Stone did not hesitate in saying that fears of nuclear waste have been exaggerated. “We all know the world needs to triple energy production in the coming century. To do that you have to be for something. You can’t be against everything. And I’m suggesting nuclear rather than more fossil fuels. That’s the premise of the film.”

“I think there is a growing realization among greens that this is the way to go. I have yet to find anybody that I can’t convince in about 10 minutes that this is the way to go. They are shocked to find out that everything they thought they knew about nuclear energy is, well, wrong.”
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Sundance anticipates the film’s controversiality. “The project reflects the views of individuals who have clearly given the topic careful consideration,” the festival writes in its promotion of Pandora’s Promise.

One of those individuals is outspoken U.K.-based climate writer Mark Lynas, who Stone interviews in the film to support the evolution of greens-to-nukes. Famed nuclear weapon author Richard Rhodes, the Whole Earth Catalog’s Stewart Brand, and many others are also interviewed.

On the eve of traveling to Sundance for the first time, Lynas shared with me how his own personal transformation from anti-to-pro-nuke evolved.

TakePart: The movie asks, “How do we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it?” Is nuclear one of the solutions?

Mark Lynas: More than just one of the answers. Nuclear is still our only large-scale option for zero-carbon baseload electricity, assuming we don't want more big dams in fragile river systems around the world. The world's 400 or so operating reactors already avoid the emission of some two billion tons of CO2 per year. To have the remotest chance of tackling climate change, we need all the low-carbon options available, including renewables, efficiency measures and technologies which are now in the pipeline.

TakePart: Was there some kind of light bulb moment for you, when you decided that nuclear energy wasn’t all evil?

Mark Lynas: I was at a conference about five or six years ago, and all the speakers were promoting renewable power. It hadn't occurred to me until then just how trivial the amount of power generated by renewables really is. Wave power is still basically at the prototype stage, as is tidal stream. Nuclear massively outweighs them all, which I didn't know at the time. I also didn't know that there were new designs of reactor, which consume nuclear waste. It was Jim Hansen, the NASA climate scientist, who got me thinking about this issue. He has come to the same conclusion that we need new, safe nuclear to avoid runaway climate change.

TakePart: Looking ahead a century, when the planet will host a human population of nine billion, where do you think the additional energy will come from?

Mark Lynas: The main thing to understand is that we will need a lot more of it. Probably three or four times as much energy worldwide will be consumed by 2050, as poverty declines and the population grows. Renewables like wind and solar currently generate less than two percent of primary energy, so expecting them to scale up to 100 percent to replace fossil fuels and also provide all the additional growth is frankly wishful thinking. We need pragmatism on climate, not to trap ourselves into ideological positions where some low-carbon energy sources are "bad" and others "good."

I see too much fetishisation of wind and solar, and too little attention paid to the hard realities. With a nuclear fleet ten times today's size, plus increases in renewable generation of several hundred percent of wind and solar, and full-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage on existing gas and coal power plants, we perhaps stand a chance.
 

Kit B. (277)
Saturday January 19, 2013, 11:01 am

I have the good fortune to have access to a channel named Wealth TV. Generally, labeled as a travel channel they have offered some of the best documentaries offered for TV viewing, including a recent showing o"f Focal Point: Echoes of Chernobyl", an excellent look at the experiences and stories from those who were there, while the film crew was also allowed to go to the now wreckage of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. We have so much history of vast destruction caused by just one unexpected accident, one unplanned event that has cost the lives of so many. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima Daiichi, to name only three that caught some media attention. Public safety must come first, above profit, above convenience, above popular discussions. When Nuclear Plants have an "accident" there is no clean up, no second chance.

Perhaps in the future we will have moved to new levels of technology that would allow for completely safe use of Nuclear Energy - by then we many not need it's use.

http://www.wealthtv.com/programming/chernobyl.php
 

JL A. (272)
Saturday January 19, 2013, 12:32 pm
Thank you Kit for providing the link to the other documentary for all who wish to learn more factual information on the subject. You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.
 

Michael Kirkby (83)
Saturday January 19, 2013, 1:42 pm
It's not just that a great number of nuclear reactors and plants are the very same ones that GE supplied in Fukushima with the same faults; it's also that a good percentage of them are on or adjacent to fault lines. Then there is the question of storing the nuclear waste. DC power and scalar wave power don't have that problem.
 

JL A. (272)
Saturday January 19, 2013, 1:49 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.
 

John B. (215)
Saturday January 19, 2013, 7:14 pm
Thanks J.L. for the posting. Sorry but I can not see more nuclear power as the solution, however I'm glad the documentary is out there as it will keep the discussion in the news and generate more interest in the options for energy production. Read and noted. Thank you Kit for providing the link to the Chernobyl documentary.
 

Past Member (0)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 12:51 pm
Nuke propaganda!
 

JL A. (272)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 3:29 pm
You're welcome John--excellent points, too! You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Robert because you have done so within the last week.
 

Past Member (0)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 4:26 pm
Sounds promising. =)
 

JL A. (272)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 4:38 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Laura because you have done so within the last week.
 

marie tc (166)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 4:54 pm
You can not currently send a green star to Kit as you have done so within the last week
 

greenplanet e. (157)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 5:22 pm
There are still problems with nuclear fission, and with nuclear waste, DU etc.
 

JL A. (272)
Sunday January 20, 2013, 5:29 pm
You cannot currently send a star to greenplanet because you have done so within the last week.
 

Julie W. (20)
Monday January 21, 2013, 1:11 am
If Germany, with its fairly cold climate, can supply a large percentage of its energy needs through solar, why not in the US?
 

Patricia N. (8)
Monday January 21, 2013, 2:17 am
Please, please....no more of this type of energy. Spend the money on alternative energy and ideas.
 

Allan Yorkowitz (452)
Monday January 21, 2013, 2:12 pm
Look at the smoke belching out of that reactor. This is the answer?
 

JL A. (272)
Monday January 21, 2013, 3:12 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Patricia because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Allan because you have done so within the last week.
 

Klaus Peters (9)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 6:20 am
Sorry, I cannot agree that nuclear power generation is the answer to energy shortages as several accidents have shown over the years. Most plants are getting old, especially in Eastern Europe and are not well maintained. A lot of small accidents are likely to have been covered up. The Nuclear Industry is totally irresponsible and greedy. But, I do respect Germany for phasing out nuclear power, I thought Japan would have been the first to do that after suffering so much in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Allan Y. you mentioned "Look at the smoke belching out of that reactor." To be correct, it is a Cooling Tower shown in that picture, not a Reactor. It is not belching Smoke, but Steam. I am definitely not defending nuclear power by saying this, in fact it is just the opposite.
The steam in itself is harmless, but the heat generated adds to global warming and also warms rivers where the water was drawn and later returned. But, as we saw in Fukushima, the tsunami destroyed the cooling system of several reactors, hence the massive pollution. A lot of radioactive water was released back into the sea and several explosions sent radioactivity into the air and circled the globe.
 

JL A. (272)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 7:52 am
Thank you for your informative comment providing solid rationale for your opinion Klaus! You cannot currently send a star to Klaus because you have done so within the last week.
 
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