Film review: Pandora’s Promise

What if we are wrong about nuclear?
Photo credit: Pandora’s Promise

By Anders Lorenzen


Last Friday, US renowned documentary maker Robert Stone screened his relatively new film Pandora’s Promise (were released last year) at the Frontline Club in London, UK,


The film considers whether, at a time in which we face the severe risk of runaway climate change, the green movement are too preoccupied with fighting nuclear power instead of going after the devil itself – fossil fuels. It asked whether the scaremongering surrounding nuclear power is exaggerated, and whether, in fact, it is key to combating dangerous climate change.


Mark Lynas. Photo credit: Pandora’s Promise

After the screening, Stone was joined for his Q&A session by pro nuclear environmentalist Mark Lynas who features heavily in the film as someone who used to be against nuclear but has now taken a pro nuclear stance. Lynas controversially likened anti nuclear campaigners to climate deniers in the film, a position he reiterated in the Q&A.



The film centered around large anti nuclear protests in the 70’s in which Lynas himself took part. It then considered the concerns safety issues and the regulations for building and constructing nuclear power stations today, looking at the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine as an example, before making the point that nuclear power stations today are a great deal safer than they used to be. It then went on to examine the renewable energy sector, controversially labelling it costly and inefficient, expressing a skepticism about the use of energy and toxins in the manufacture of solar panels.

The film does a good job of showing why, in a time in which we are facing the prospect of runaway climate change, there has to be a case for nuclear. It also competently analyses how a large part of the anti nuclear movement has been built on scaremongering following the three big nuclear accidents we have had: Three Miles Island, Chernobyl and more recently Fukushima.


But it makes gross errors in how it discredit renewables as being as too expensive and inefficient. This is problematic an inaccurate at a time when the cost of renewables is at an all time low and the pace of installations is rapidly increasing – the opposite of the nuclear sector in which where the cost of new installations is at an all time high and the deployment of new nuclear seems to have stalled.


It also neglects to emphasise the lengthy time commitment of waiting for the benefits of new nuclear; its a fact that reactors built today would not be online and feeding electricity to the grid before six to ten years time at the earliest. This stands as a stark contrast to both fossil fuels plants and large scale renewables, where the turnaround can be in the region of six months, far less for smaller decentralised renewable energy project.


This aside, the film is accurate in making the point that that the time is now to seriously start accepting nuclear energy as a viable solution to dealing with climate change and that a modern climate change movement needs to include nuclear energy as an option. This can only take place alongside a huge escalation of renewables, not as an alternative to it.

So far the film has been deemed too controversial for any UK broadcaster; only two global broadcasters have bought it, one being the Chinese Central Television (CCTV) television.

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

Related news:

Analysis: Does nuclear have a future?

Is alternative energy really the answer? 

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