[“Pandora’s Promise” will be broadcast on CNN Thursday, Nov. 7, 9:00pm to 11:00pm, with encores from 11:00pm to 1:00am and 2:00am to 4:00am. All times Eastern.]
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.
The 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 Tomatoes.com, 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.