On Pandora’s Promise (II)

The movie “Pandora’s Promise” was a sleek film promoting an attitude of pragmatic environmentalism. It seemed to target an urban U.S. audience, with the assumption that they are people concerned about climate change but wary of nuclear power. Perhaps because it was aimed at the general population, the film did not include much hard data or statistics. This reliance on expert opinion and anecdotes made it easy to watch, but there were times when I would have liked to hear more about the assumptions underlying some of their claims.

Similarly, there were aspects of the nuclear debate that they seemed to breeze over or omit entirely. This was primarily in regards to various costs associated with nuclear technology. For instance, they mention that the IFR was scrapped by the federal government, but they do not explain the government’s reasons for doing so. Similarly, they compare nuclear to other energy sources in terms of capacity and dependability, but they do not detail the cost comparisons associated with the different fuels. Another area in which costs are not thoroughly delineated is with regard to the costs associated with nuclear accidents. They point out that in terms of health statistics, nuclear is the second safest fuel since no deaths (or even incidents of cancer) have been attributed to nuclear leaks. However, they do not discuss the economic cost of clean-up and containment that results from these nuclear accidents.

The film also neglects to touch upon the proliferation and risk of terrorism associated with nuclear. Granted, nuclear proliferation is a complex debate and the filmmakers had limited time. However, it is something that must be factored into discussions about nuclear energy.

The film did a good job of framing the nuclear energy debate in the context of the present day. All of their references, from the shale boom to Hurricane Sandy to Fukushima, were up-to-date, making the subject matter seem particularly relevant to me as a viewer. And to their credit, they devoted a sizable portion of the introduction to discussing Fukushima, which included footage that followed a scientist to the fallout zone. One thing that struck me, however, was that at the end of his segment, the cameraman asks him if seeing the devastation from the accident changed his view on nuclear power. His response was that he needed time to process what he saw before answering. However, the film never went back to hear his verdict. This storyline was only a minor part of the introduction of the film so this omission is fairly insignificant, but it happened to stick with me and the omission of his answer made me wonder if the filmmakers were not selectively excluding information as they built their case for nuclear energy. — A. D.