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by Alison Willmore
November 7, 2013 1:24 PM
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Why Divisive Pro-Nuclear Power Film 'Pandora's Promise' is the Right Kind of Doc for CNN to Air

'Pandora's Promise' Robert Stone

Discussions about the economics of different power sources and the expense of building nuclear plants are likewise not brought up. The anti-nuke forces are represented mainly in shots of crowds gathered outside plants holding signs, or Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. or Helen Caldicott addressing them ("There is no safe level of radiation!" she shouts) or scattered addressing questions from the filmmaker at an event -- never through sit-down interviews.

"Pandora's Promise" is certainly firmly if not blindly one-sided, but like "Blackfish," the previous doc acquisition that CNN aired last month to much ratings and social media success, it feels like the type of film it makes sense for the cable news outlet to air. While something like "Our Nixon," which was more art film than straightforward historical account, felt out of place in the context of news programs, advocacy works like "Blackfish" and "Pandora's Promise" fit in more easily as programming.

The wider access offered by CNN provides a platform on which preaching to the choir isn't necessarily going to be the case.

And more importantly, they allow the network to use the films as a starting point for discussion of the topics on which they're centered -- especially as CNN feels an obligation to present a more balanced viewpoint on the issue than the docs may offer by themselves. As with "Blackfish," "Pandora's Promise" will be followed by an Anderson Cooper-hosted special entitled "Nuclear Power: The Fallout of Fear," and CNN has already published a piece from Natural Resources Defense Council co-director Ralph Cavanagh and nuclear energy expert Tom Cochran rebutting some of the film's claims. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert Stone debated nuclear power on Wednesday night on "Piers Morgan Live."

In theaters, advocacy docs tend to attract audiences who are already interested and prone to agree with the arguments being made. And it's worth mentioning that just as "Pandora's Promise" calls out anti-nuclear scare ads that were placed by oil companies, the film does count as one of its executive producers Paul G. Allen, whose Vulcan Capital invests in "advanced nuclear technologies" in addition to solar and geothermal power -- untangling individual interests is only part of the complicated reality of this issue. But the wider access offered by CNN provides a platform on which preaching to the choir isn't necessarily going to be the case -- which makes it an interesting one for these films, one that, regardless of how you feel about the safety and environmental friendliness of nuclear power, makes the airing of "Pandora's Promise" a potential starting point for a more in-depth conversation.

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19 Comments

  • Save the world | March 30, 2014 2:04 AMReply

    In a time when the burning of fossil fuels kills hundreds of thousands of people each and every year just in North America, and nuclear power has never killed anyone, even less than solar panels have, can we all at least agree that even if it is somehow dangerous, it is by far the best option we currently have to save the planet.

    Don't even mention conservation either. Reducing power needs at best only delays the inevitable. The fossil fuels still all get burned, just over a slightly longer period of time. So my kids get to live to 50 rather than 40? Great solution!

    Our air is getting toxic, our oceans are dying, and our own extinction is approaching faster than ever thought possible and you're all arguing about a remote possibility that even as a worst case scenario could only ever affect a few thousand people. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying, the world is dying, because you're so scared of an extremely remote possibility of harm. We're already being harmed. We're being destroyed!!

    Wake up. Open your eyes.

    You can't wait for solar or wind power to catch up. It will be too late. It probably already is!

  • Jerry | April 1, 2014 12:58 AM

    "Oceans are dying" ........... Yes, partly because of the incomprehensible amounts of radiation leaking from Fukushima. The radiation levels in the ocean around the plant have been thousands of times the safe level.

  • Jerry | April 1, 2014 12:53 AM

    "Nuclear power has never killed anyone"

    What are you smoking, champ?

    Chernobyl killed dozens of people directly...... hundreds through delayed exposure effects. And on the higher end of estimates: thousands were killed, genius.

  • ken miller | March 28, 2014 1:47 AMReply

    According to several studies, the levelized all in in cost of large scale solar is already cheaper than nuclear without the risk. And the cost of solar (according to a McKinsey study) is dropping by 50% every seven years - not so with nuclear. Within the next decade, solar modules will simply be built into conventional roofing materials and will new homes and commercial buildings with come with their own solar plant. Elon Musk's company Solar City (in collaboration with Tesla) is developing a battery that homeowners can use to store the solar energy for use after hours. Nuclear energy is going to go the way of burning wood and coal. (We closed 100 coal plants last year.)

  • Joanne | November 24, 2013 12:52 PMReply

    Early in this documentary, the (now laughable) 1950's nuclear industry film "Our Friend The Atom" is mentioned. We are then shown a small group of people in the present day who claim to have been remarkably ill-informed about nuclear issues, but who -- now they know -- are True Believers. This echoes the personal journey of film-maker Robert Stone, and indeed there is a flavour of the "reformed smoker" about this film.

    Through the eyes of these individuals we are told that global warming is a serious threat, coal is the real villain, nuclear isn't as bad as you might think and that a technical fix for the few small problems remaining with the technology (accidents and waste, for example) is just around the corner if only governments would invest a bit more money. We're also shown a series of frankly insulting images of anti-nuclear activists.

    Frankly, I was disappointed. The journey of people who change their minds is potentially rich and interesting territory, but this documentary fails to do justice to any serious consideration of the issues. We have enough material on the nuclear topic that repeats errors and makes selective uses of opinion and speculation, presented as facts. Robert Stone omits any discussion on the economics of nuclear power, simply says that renewables and energy conservation won't work and makes fallacious and often insulting statements about the opposition to nuclear power, simply in order to shoot them down.

    These are cheap tricks, and it's not clear whom the film is intended to convince. It will appeal to the existing pro-nuclear crowd, and it may confuse a few people who would have said that they didn't know much about the issue. But it fails as either a thoughtful examination of the often complex issues, or even an intelligent explanation of the pro-nuclear side.

    Having reminded us of the cartoonish 'Our Friend The Atom', film-maker Robert Stone would have been well advised to learn that simplistic and one-sided movies don't change minds, convince the un-converted or stand the test of time. Unfortunately, he didn't.

  • Marcia Gomes | November 12, 2013 11:51 AMReply

    Pandora´s Promise? Its just one film. And one swallow doesn't make a summer. There are many more films about nuclear energy worth watching: See International Uranium Film Festival. Next Festival starts in Albuquerque Nov. 27.

  • Hypocrites | November 12, 2013 12:04 AMReply

    The people commenting here are the ones the film addresses quite well - Luddites and flat-earthers who would be more at home with the climate change deniers.

    Your unfounded fears need to be addressed - by you. Stop being nutty. I'm looking at you "Nuclear is not the Answer". You're not the answer.

    This "the film doesn't show both sides" schtick is a left-wing reviewer cop-out.

  • Anthony | April 1, 2014 8:13 PM

    Wow, must be tired. Change "son" to sun, and your to you're. Oh homonyms.

  • Anthony | April 1, 2014 8:09 PM

    Some of the film made sense, but the whole time instead of planting any seed of hope for a clean and less risky future for energy, it basically said we have no alternative. When they also downplayed the Chernobyl disaster, I nearly busted a gut. Right now, nuclear energy is not the norm. It's a minor source of power for the US and the world. Right now we have coal power plants writing their own legislation in states like WV and NC, and the damage they've done to the environment will last decades. What happens if Nuclear energy becomes the major source of energy and we have new overlords determining how they are to be regulated? Nuclear disasters are not cute and cuddly, and almost negligible as they try to make it seem in this video.

    I'm okay with nuclear energy IF and only IF the reactors really are 100% failure proof, meaning they can't melt down. Ever. If what they were saying about reusing spent nuclear fuel is actually true (which I'm going to give the makers of this documentary the benefit of the doubt and believe it is), I would also be okay with nuclear energy. If the next nuclear plant built can achieve both of those requirements, I'd be fine. However, how can we tell if a reactor is fail-proof? That kind of hubris has proven great for us this past century. The term "unsinkable" comes to mind.

    Will a shift to nuclear energy stifle more research into renewables? Yes. This is why "left wing" viewers have a problem with it. We keep saying we'll pour more research into renewable sources of energy to shut them up, but we really don't. Or what we do gets mismanaged horribly (probably by design. Solyndra anyone?) Nuclear just seems like kicking the can down the road for a couple more generations, until we have a new crises and come back to renewable energy.

    Albert Einstein said "Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water." That's all your doing with the same process that keeps the son burning. Boiling water. You'd think we'd have found a more efficient way to harness energy by now.

  • Nuclear is not the answer | November 18, 2013 9:18 AM

    Hypocrites

    English might only be my 3rd Language, but I am sure my point comes across to anyone who are willing to think about their future.

    You refer to climate change deniers ?
    I have not met a single person who denies climate change. You simply have to open your eyes to know climate change is real. The question is the cause behind climate change, and therein lies the facts of the matter.

    I am asking you to explain to me how CO2 on earth, is responsible for the warming of the ALL the planets in the inner solar system. This is not the first time there has been climate change and it will not be the last. The nature of the events in the universe is cycles, as the universe is about orbital relationships. You can try to be personal, but facts does not care about, personal insults. We might have a contribution to climate change, but history proves, beyond a double that CO2 levels have been sky high, before humans set up there civilized industries.

    I have not claimed to be the answer. Therefore I agree with you, I am not the answer.

    But at least I won't have it on my conscience, the reminder that my ideas, was behind the downfall of humanity.

    This is not about me, it is simply about the facts, and the undeniable truths, that nuclear technology is not ready to address the issues. The solution is not in the treatment of the symptoms, but it is in the treatment of the cause. The issue might not be that we don't have enough energy, but it might be that we are wasting energy, which might be at a cost to our survival.

    The facts of the matter is simple. You can ask these questions:
    How many nuclear related incidents have their been in the recent history ?
    How many lives were affected ?
    How many cancers were caused ?
    How many people were displaced ?
    What was the cost ?
    Will it happen again ?

    And therein lies the facts.
    I need not give these facts to you.
    You can simply seek to truthfully answer those simple questions.

    Within the last month a nuclear reactor (used for the creation of medical isotopes) in South Africa leaked radio active noble gases. I am sure the extent to these leaks, from a facility close to densely populated areas, will be again, made out to be of little impact.

    But how many of the citizens have radioactive measurement tools, and particle counters ?

    The risks to high. It is not unfounded fears, but the proof in the bad pudding. If there has been no incidents in the past 40 years, then it would possible been have unfounded, but the facts are on the table.

    We never have all the facts, and chances are pretty well that there have been more incidents, and chances are that some of them has been hushed up by the industry. It is strange how those in power like how to keep secrets, on order to protect there liability.

    I just know I don't want to be part of this problem.

    I appreciate your insults as it exclaims to me, that my reasoning and moral view on the situation is accurate, and the only thing which you can try, is to be abusive. Try to abuse the facts, they won't care...Cancer is cancer, and parts of the planets which has become inhabitable would not give way to your insults, as the negative effects of uncontrolled radiation is simply to much of a problem.

    This is not about perfect syntax and correct language, it is about your heath and the legacy of humanity on this planet.

  • noplacelikehome | November 11, 2013 12:31 PMReply

    Creepy, irradiated Earth graphic. It seems like CNN did that Sea World doc to gain some cred before they started pushing the real propaganda at us.

  • Nuclear is not the answer. | November 10, 2013 6:16 AMReply

    Nuclear is madness

    It can so easily be the road to our extinction, if not by war then by these uncontrolled incidents.

    Let those who are pro nuclear ,put there names on a list, and when (not if) the next disaster comes, then these people with their names on the list, should personally go and do the dogmatic clean up themselves, as well as fork out the dollars to do it.
    And clean up is not possibly, as only time can solve the problem.
    Non of us can live in a hole for 600 years to wait for the eco system to recover.

    Please go an make sure you know what the Price Anderson Act is and how it will affect you. The nuclear industry knows, that the technoly is not safe, and therefore they have made effort to use insurance to make sure they will not be liable for the costs when it happens, but you the tax payer will be liable for the cost, and everyone on the planet will suffer the debt to the biosphere .
    Go and research what the current cost of the Fukushima disaster is. The Nuclear industry will not pay these amounts, and as in the case with Japan ,it will become the tax payers problem.

    We only have this planet, and the value of that exceeds any financial matters.

    Nuclear is not safe, if is was safe, we would not have had any incidents in the past 40 years. If is was not safe there would be no need for insurance...Let those who sell nuclear, do away with the insurance and take the responsibility personally. If they don't want to, don't trust them, because the reasons why they want to cover themselves is as apparent as the insurance.


    The matter of the fact is ,there was already 3 major incidents, not to include the amount of active isotopes which were dumped into the biosphere with the test of those ungodly weapons, made to mame and kill.
    Radiation can't be seen, tasted, smelled or detected by any of your senses and therefor you will only likely become aware of the consequences of these particles when it is already to late.


    The matter of the fact is ,there was already 3 major incidents, not to include the amount of active isotopes which were dumped into the biosphere with the test of those ungodly weapons, made to mame and kill.
    Radiation can't be seen, tasted, smelled or detected by any of your senses and therefor you will only likely become aware of the consequences of these particles when it is already to late.

    Nuclear is not clean, as we don't know how to deal with the waste. No matter where you put it, there is not way to know that the integrity of those storage areas will stand the movements of the crust, volcanic actions, the consequences of asteroid impacts, the possibility of uncontrolled leaks as is currently the case with Fukushima. And yes, the probability of asteroids impact are on the increase, just listen to the authorities, they will be making you more and more aware of this, and yes, there is a reason why they are doing it.

    Nuclear is not cheap. Just do the math. Add the costs of the clean up of 3 mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

    And to put a value on the life of people who is dying of cancer indirectly from fall out of these incidents, as well as the military application of the ungodly science, is impossible.

    Don't listen tho those who say it happens to infrequent. Humanity has already been close to the extinction a few times, due to this monstrous technology.
    If the industrial world is affected by a solar flare, such as with the Carrington e
    event in 1859, it will not be one or 2 reactors which suffer the same fate as Fukushima, because there would be no power to drive the pumps which keep the unstable rods cold.

    Do your homework.
    Solar flares, melts conductors...no conductors = no electricity = no way to cool reactors.

    Don't be fooled to this madness.

    Listen to people like Dr Helen Caldicott and Arnie Gunderson to make sure you have all the facts, including the ones in Pandora's Box, because when they are out, they can't be put back in the box.

    These incidents are not set backs, they are a wake up call.

    Nuclear simply is not the answer, no way how you try to sell it.

  • ParralelLogic | March 28, 2014 1:30 PM

    "Let those who are pro nuclear ,put there names on a list, and when (not if) the next disaster comes, then these people with their names on the list, should personally go and do the dogmatic clean up themselves, as well as fork out the dollars to do it."

    I don't get the logic behind that. Since you are a coal supporter (the current alternative to nuclear, solar/wind is getting there but not as of March 2014), by your logic are you supposed to go to a coal plant and breathe in the fumes for a few hours a day and fork out some dollars to do it?

  • informed consumer | November 9, 2013 7:21 PMReply

    CNN's name attached to a doc is enough for me to not see it.

  • Simon | November 14, 2013 12:33 PM

    Agree completely, one has to wonder what the renewable energy sector like solar, wind, geothermal etc could do with the billions in public funds these dinosaurs would cost. You know, the sources of free energy that are all around us. All we need to do is expend the effort to gather them up. Almost like having gold nuggets all around us and we to go to the jewelry store to buy gold. That's a great definition for stupid.

  • Hypocrites | November 12, 2013 12:07 AM

    Why would anyone believe you? Look at this sentence: If is was not safe there would be no need for insurance.

    You shouldn't even be allowed to post on websites, much less get close to a computer.

  • Jill | November 8, 2013 12:53 PMReply

    We'd love to get your review. Please check out our crowdfunding campaign for the film, The Lunatic, by the director of The Perfect Age of Rock and Roll.
    http://igg.me/p/506080

  • Christina Macpherson | November 7, 2013 6:53 PMReply

    Australian premiere of "Pandora's Promise" reviewed at http://noelwauchope.wordpress.com/ - "Robert Stone and “Pandora’s Promise”
    The film’s Australian premiere was shown in Melbourne on October 8th, with director Robert Stone answering questions afterwards.
    I found myself liking Robert Stone , for his enthusiasm, and sincere concern about climate change.
    I found myself disliking the film, for its sins of omission, and manipulative way of discrediting anti nuclear people....."

  • pol | November 7, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    The Children of Chernobyl
    http://politicalfilm.wordpress.com/chernobyl-gallery-real-horrors/