There are times when a lone brave voice — bucking both public opinion and sometimes seemingly even reality — is called for, for the good of a nation, society, or planetary survival.

CNN’s decision to broadcast the commercially disastrous pro-nuclear docu-mercial ‘Pandora’s Promise’ is not one of those times.

Pandora 3The 2013 documentary by Robert Stone purports to present the narrative of several self-described formerly anti-nuclear environmentalists who supposedly have “seen the light,” and now support nuclear power in the future.  Despite an aggressive ad campaign, the $1 million-plus documentary grossed $66,643 over its 7 week run in the summer of 2013 – roughly translating into a total national viewing audience of about 6,664.  It did garner a decent 61% on Rotten, however.  

The docu-mercial was properly panned by a significant number of the press that would seem logically to count:  the generally pro-nuclear New York Times, and even the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  The latter, in a review titled, “Pandora’s False Promise,” wrote:

“The film unabashedly promotes nuclear power as the only energy source that can both meet worldwide demand and help reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to minimize further damage to the Earth’s atmosphere….

“The flaw in the film’s approach is its zealous advocacy of one solution — one silver bullet — to meet the tremendous challenges of providing for some nine billion people by 2050, while also protecting societies from the ravages of climate disruption. The kind of thinking that led some of these environmentalists to single-mindedly protest nuclear power plants during the 1970s and 1980s leads them to just-as-single-mindedly advocate a push toward nuclear power 40 years later.

“Nuclear power may indeed end up being part of the energy mix that leads to both a more stable climate and adequate livelihoods around the world. But the challenges posed by nuclear power — like the risk of weapons proliferation and reactor accidents, and the need to securely store radioactive used fuel for many generations — are not adequately addressed in the film.

“Rather, Stone and his subjects seem as intent on promoting nuclear power as the one clear solution as they once were in denying that it had any place in responsible energy planning. Since they’ve now “seen the light,” viewers are expected to join their new-found cause.

“…What is disingenuous about Pandora’s Promise is the way the new judgment is conveyed. The film mocks groups that continue to protest nuclear power, treating one-time colleagues as extremists and zealots. An audience discussion after a preview at the University of Chicago made it clear I was not the only one who sensed the self-righteous tone of the newly converted in the film’s narrative. In the end, by dismissing the protestors and failing to engage them in significant debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy, the film undermined its own message.”

As a fig leaf for their decision to air such a biased film, CNN on its website writes,

Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, said, “Both of these special films represent exactly the type of engaging, thought-provoking content that is the mission of CNN Films.”  “Through our acquisitions and commissions of exceptional factual content, we aim to encourage dialogue on the issues raised in the films with our filmmakers, experts, and other stakeholders via our robust television, digital and social platforms,” he said.  (emphasis ours)

If the folks at CNN really wanted a considered and fair national debate on the controversial issue of nuclear power, they might have as a counterpoint turned to people with nuclear backgrounds who now do NOT support nuclear power.  We would recommend the three former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioners Peter Bradford, Victor Gilinsky, and former Chair Greg Jaczko, who was Chair of the Commission until forced out in 2012 by internal politics for being too safety conscious after the Fukushima disaster.  These are people who were on the INSIDE of nuclear power, who know that nuclear power is greater than the false, seductive Pandora’s promises offered in this film.  Even though Jaczko has expressed some support for future designs, he is unequivocal in his criticism that ALL current U.S. reactors need to be fixed or closed.  Perhaps that should be Stone’s next film.

That Robert Stone misses the essence of the Pandora myth illustrates the deceptive nature of advertising and the movie itself.  While “hope” may have been in the bottom of the box Pandora opened, it was still a box containing all the EVILS of the world — a warning that false hope can be dangerous and destructive.  Or as the legendary and late folk singer Steve Goodman once sang, “And just remember that you’ll only fall for the lies and stories that you really WANT to!”  O

NEIS Director Dave Kraft will be available for comment and interview on the film, which he has seen previously, on Thursday and Friday at the NEIS office, and is available for phone, Skype or studio appearance.

ADDENDUM:  CNN will nationally broadcast the much criticized, pro-nuclear power film Pandora’s Promise on Thursday, November 7. CNN is airing the film without offering any opposing viewpoints despite requests and petitions from Beyond Nuclear and others. To help provide balance and a critical perspective on nuclear power, The Atomic States of America film will be available to view free online from November 6 – 8. Atomic States provides a comprehensive exploration of the history and impact of nuclear power to date, and investigates the truths and myths about nuclear energy. Please help promote the film’s availability to your networks and friends.

The film will also be shown Thursday, December 5,  7 PM at the Film Studies Center (Cobb 306) of the University of Chicago, 5811 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago.  A discussion will follow the film.  The showing is part of the Energy Activisms film series, presented by CIS and the Program on the Global Environment.

There are times when a lone brave voice — bucking both public opinion and sometimes seemingly even reality — is called for, for the good of a nation, society, or planetary survival.

CNN’s decision to broadcast the commercially disastrous pro-nuclear docu-mercial ‘Pandora’s Promise’ is not one of those times.

Press Statement

Article on radioactive waste buildup captures public attention.

Dave Kraft, Director, NEIS  •  October 25, 2013

An article in the Bloomberg Press of Oct. 25, 2013 titled “Illinois Biggest Atomic Dump as U.S. Fails to Pick Site,”  has received a lot of media attention today.  While it should be and is appreciated that Bloomberg writes about radioactive waste issues at all, the article in reality is a lot like one about the sky being blue, or water being wet.

With 14 reactors total, and 11 constantly producing more high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of irradiated or “spent” fuel, as it is called, it’s no wonder we’ve accumulated over 9,000 tons of the nation’s HLRW in Illinois.

The real “story” of the story, though, seems to be to create a perceived “need” for what the nuclear industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and their political allies in Congress and the Obama Administration really want next – “centralized interim storage” (CIS)  facilities for the HLRW.

These allegedly temporary storage sites – “parking lot dumps,” as some describe them — are proposed in legislation before the Senate (S.1240).  Their purpose is to take and store the spent fuel from reactor sites until some magical time in the future when the nation finally opens a permanent, deep-geological disposal repository.  By creating a seeming urgency and need to act, however impulsively, the industry and its allies are creating the narrative to accept the only alternative out there – the one they propose and support, which is CIS.  Rather than having a needed intelligent debate and real scientific examination of options involving all affected segments of the population, the industry and its allies hope to project CIS as an inevitable fait accompli.

Being from Illinois we’ve been saying for decades: if you don’t have a permanent disposal site, you should not be allowed to make more waste.  We didn’t allow the builders of the John Hancock Building and the former Sear’s Tower to construct those skyscrapers without bathrooms.  Yet, the NRC allowed and allows the nuclear industry to do just that – operate and produce even more waste without the existence of a certified disposal facility.

For 30 years we’ve supported the need to construct a permanent, deep geologic disposal repository, but our position requiring the prior existence of a waste solution and disposal facility was ignored.   But now when Everett Redmond and others from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, the nuclear industry trade and lobbying group)  cry crocodile tears, it’s an “emergency,” requiring extraordinary and imprudent measures like “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities?  That’s nonsense!

We need a high-level radioactive waste RE-pository, not a SUP-pository. The only purpose served by CIS is to allow more high-level waste to be created without guaranteeing a final disposal solution.  It’s a nuclear industry convenience, not a societal or environmental need.

What the Bloomberg article has conveniently left out is that Illinois is at the top of the list for the first of such CIS facilities, according to a 2012 report from Oak Ridge National Lab.  The construction of  CIS in Illinois would add an additional 9,000+ tons of spent fuel for storage here to the 9,000+ tons we already have.

We have reported this situation to Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk.  While their staffs have dutifully received our warning, the Senators and the rest of the Illinois delegation has dealt with our information with a thunderous round of indifference.

The nuclear industry, with NEI leading the charge clamored loud and long for dry casks in the 1980s.  NRC typically rubber stamped their implementation at reactor sites, while conveniently ignoring their own criteria and regs at the time.  BOTH claimed then that dry casks were needed, and could safely store wastes for up to 100 years onsite.  So, what has made dry cask storage suddenly so “unsafe” as to require their removal to CIS facilities?  At which time were they lying to the public and Congress, then? or now?

According to a paper that geologist and now NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane gave in Illinois in 2005, Yucca Mt.  FAILS two of the four international safety standards for the siting of a high-level waste repository.  THAT does not sound like a very good long-term solution to our national radwaste problem  Yet members of Congress are asking to open Yucca – anyway.

And now NEI, the industry and their Congressional allies are clamoring for “centralized interim storage” as a temporary fix until we get a permanent disposal repository.  This new nonsense only creates MORE contaminated sites, uses the exact same technology — dry casks —  that the industry is so schizoid about in terms of safety, and introduces the additional hazard of unnecessary waste transportation on a degraded transport infrastructure, while having to move it a second time when we build the permanent disposal facilities.  (Yes, we will need more than one).

As for the Blue Ribbon Commission’s “concern” about reactor communities not “signing on” or giving consent for indefinite waste storage duty, the nuclear hostages in those reactor communities most certainly did not sign on for 20 year reactor license extensions that NRC passes out like indulgences, nor the 80 year reactor life span extension that NRC is studying at NEI’s request.  To so use the people of reactors communities already victimized by nuclear power in this manner is simply venal, opportunistic and disingenuous.

On November 12th, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in with its opinions on what to do with HLRW at an NRC public meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, from 6 to 10 p.m.  This will be a long overdue opportunity for the public to tell the NRC, the nuclear industry, and their political allies what to do about the waste problem, “Not TO, not THROUGH Illinois!”  The correct option is – stop making it!  And permanently dispose of all you’ve made in a responsible manner!