"Pandora's Promise": Rethinking Nuclear Power

While Mark Kitchell's recent documentary A Fierce Green Fire showed some of the infighting that's occurred within the environmental movement over the decades, Robert Stone's new Pandora's Promise narrows the focus to one of the most hotly debated subjects: nuclear power. Talking heads, including Whole Earth Catalog and Long Now Foundation founder Stewart Brand, journalist Gwyneth Cravens, and distractingly hunky Bon Iver fan Michael Shellenberger, discuss their evolutions away from what they now see as the knee-jerk anti-nuke position, one that not only conflates the dangers of nuclear power with nuclear weapons, but ignores data suggesting that nuclear power is safer and more practical than solar or wind power. (Anti-nuclear activists are even compared to climate change deniers, which seems a notch above comparing them to Hitler in this context.) In any other leftist documentary, famed anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott might be one of the heroic interviewees lovingly photographed as she gazes thoughtfully at the ocean, but here she's the ideological villain caught off-guard by a hand-held camera, and edited to look ignorant. So while it makes a fairly convincing pro-nuclear argument, especially during its globetrotting debunking of radiation fears — hey, bananas are radioactive! — the most fascinating thing about Pandora's Promise may be what it reveals about the short half-lives of the reputations of people like Caldicott, if their opinions don't change fast enough.

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