The new documentary doesn't pretend to be anything other than a one-sided look at the upsides of nuclear energy.

Movie Review: Pandora’s Promise Offers an Argument for a Nuclear Future




Angelika Film Center 5321 E. Mockingbird Ln. Dallas, TX 75206


Opens June 21

There’s a strange way that nuclear power is introduced in Robert Stone’s new documentary, Pandora’s Promise, presented through a series of interviews with hardline environmentalists who express their support of the energy source like Catholics confessing sins in a confessional. All of the subjects were once strong opponents of nuclear, because, as for most environmental activists, nuclear falls on a list of no-nos that mainstream environmentalism refuses to accept. The negatives are clear: the massive fallout after meltdowns and the problem of radioactive waste.

The positioning of the nuclear debate with the context of a penitential environmentalism limits the documentary’s potential audience. This feels like a movie for left-leaning advocates who may be suspicious of the handful of their colleagues who have over to the darkside of nuclear. To win these people over, Stone walks through the pros and cons – and then tries to debunk the cons. The meltdowns aren’t that bad, the documentary argues. Radiation is actually everywhere, it goes on to say, so why are we worried? And Nuclear energy has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. The connection was just some fearmongering that dates back to the 1950s – and was funded by big, bad oil companies.

Like most films of this ilk, Pandora’s Promise proves informative and frustrating. It was interesting to learn that the dirty water-based reactors that have melted down and produce lots of waste proliferated because of a misdirected marketing scheme, and that there is now technology to produce much cleaner reactors that reuse their waste. Less convincing were the Geiger counter glamour shots, a hand and a yellow meter that pops up at locations around the world, showing that radioactive readings at Chenobyl are on par with the radioactive sand on some Brazilian beach. Maybe so, but I’ll risk being called a deluded product of anti-nuclear marketing before I take a Euro trip to the site of the Ukrainian nuclear disaster.

That said, Pandora’s Promise raises some pertinent objections to the conventional environmental ideology, and like another fringe environmentalist film Cool It by the controversial Bjorn Lomborg, it presents a solution to global warming that is unpopular with traditional environmental platforms and  yet could actually have an effect on energy consumption that comes close to the scale of the climate problem (unlike, say, solar or wind power). For that, Pandora’s Promise should be heard. But for the same reasons, like Cool It, it will likely be ignored.