While people are quick to dismiss nuclear energy as bad, Pandora’s Promise shows how some leading environmentalists have converted to support its use. Many activists have become disillusioned with the traditional environmental approaches to climate change. They claim that the concerns are so dire, that non-carbon-producing nuclear is the best current solution to mitigate the effects of our years of fossil-fuel guzzling.
The film makes a surprisingly persuasive argument. Experts on the scientific side explain the ways that nuclear energy technology has advanced (new reactors recycle waste back into fuel) and examine what they say is misinformation (inflated radiation fears, that conservation and alternative energies could be enough). The reality is we will need more and more power, and we cannot continue to extract every last bit of oil, coal, and natural gas, then burn it and send it into the atmosphere. The film lays out the benefits of nuclear energy: It is clean, it doesn’t pollute the air, it doesn’t damage the ozone, and it produces large amounts of energy, which is inexpensive for consumers. One environmentalist says: “To be anti-nuclear is basically to be in favor of burning fossil fuels. I finally had to change my mind.”
They make an interesting case. Obviously, what we are doing now isn’t working. Coal is the most widely used source of energy in the world, and it is also the fastest growing source of energy. If you think about the air pollution produced by coal-fired power stations, not to mention the mining and transportation of coal, nuclear starts to look a bit better. Essentially, they argue that the devastating effects of fossil-fuel consumption are worse than the dangers posed by the production of nuclear energy.
Previously, to be an environmentalist was to be against nuclear energy. It is interesting to see these people changing their views on it (including Stewart Brand, publisher of the Whole-Earth Catalog). However, the film is almost entirely one-sided, extolling the benefits of nuclear power while portraying anti-nuclear activists as strident conspiracy theorists unwilling to see the truth. And it doesn’t address the huge costs of building nuclear power stations (the film was partially funded by Vulcan, which is developing advanced nuclear technologies). However, what’s clear is that the old environmental strategies aren’t sufficient, and somehow we need to create a new clean-energy infrastructure to replace the current fossil-fuel infrastructure before we all choke to death.