Pandora’s Promise: On Being Both an Environmentalist and Pro-Nuclear

The challenge for the next generation is to put nuclear power into its proper context – high intensity energy use without killing the planet and France with 80 nuclear plants, leads Europe in this regard or did until…

They (France) are greener than green Denmark, greener than green Germany (Credit screen-capture)

They (France) are greener than green Denmark, greener than green Germany (Credit screen-capture)

… the EU-imposed ‘green’ agenda started to gain increased momentum following François Hollande’s election as President of France in May 2012. This week the deeply-troubled and electorally-unpopular Socialist administration gave voice to a key plank in its electoral platform, the commitment, imposed by the French Green Party, to cutting back French energy dependency on nuclear from 80% to 50%.

Environment Minister Ségolène Royal has unveiled yet another ambitious green energy policy at a time when in some quarters at least, once hardline environmentalists are reconsidering their long-standing opposition to nuclear energy and this despite considerable ongoing fall out from the Fukushima meltdown.

Pandora’s Promise, an 87 min documentary by award-winning director Robert Stone, released in Europe in November 2013, seeks to make the case for nuclear through the voices of former environmental opponents of the industry. Read this summer 2013 review in the NewYorker for more details.

As one film critic writing in Little White Lies magazine noted: “The film’s credentials (in terms of its purported political objectivity) aren’t exactly squeaky clean, as the experts it calls upon for testimony are all “reformed” environmentalists who have seen the nuclear light. One prominent anti-nuclear activist is allowed to speak, but only in the context of a flustered doorstepping at a rally. But the film is interesting in the sense that it is testing how far it can convincingly defend the apparently indefensible while remaining politically unpartisan at all points”

The documentary’s official website says: “Pandora’s Promise is a feature-length documentary about the history and future of nuclear power. The film explores how and why mankind’s most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately embraced by many of those who once led the charge against it. Operating as history, cultural meditation and contemporary exploration, Pandora’s Promise aims to inspire a serious and realistic debate over what is without question the most important question of our time: how do we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it?”

Watch Pandora’s Promise – 2013 – Official Trailer

The excerpt below starting at 37.06 minutes into the film, describes France’s leading role in ensuring energy security through its ambitious and widely-envied nuclear programme:

Pandoras promise part 2 of 2 par margareta-gnosia

At 37.53 minutes into the clip above the narrator says:  “one of the most inspiring stories anywhere is the story of France… When the oil shocks happened and the price of oil went up dramatically, the French realised they needed to get serious about alternatives … they said this is serious and has to do with national security so they made sure they had the best nuclear engineers and this standard design for nuclear reactors and then just rolled it out … what is so significant about what the French did is that they did it so quickly, they did it almost at the pace (of scale-up) that we need to do globally… they now have 80% of their electricity from nuclear, the trains are electrically powered, they have clean air, they have the cheapest energy in Europe, they are selling it to everyone else and they are greener than green Denmark, greener than green Germany …

“… I didn’t know what French per capita carbon dioxide emissions were — which is actually the most important question to ask – the answer is they are about 5 times per person per year while Germany’s are about 10 times per person per year … In the long term (plants that last 50 to a 100 years) are much more economical than very expensive solar panels and very expensive wind turbines that both require back up power…”

Among other points made by those interviewed: “The entire waste production from France’s 50 nuclear power plants which produce 80% of the country’s electricity fit under the floor of one room. Compare that to the billions of waste from coal powered electricity plants …
… (this) completely blows away most of the anti-nuclear arguments so nuclear waste is not an environmental issue, it’s not something that I as an environmentalist am concerned about.”

Michael Shellenberg Preident of Breakthrouigh Institute recounts why he changed sides

Michael Shellenberg Preident of Breakthrouigh Institute recounts why he changed sides

Cast of the film:
• Stewart Brand: noted futurist and creator of The Whole Earth Catalog.
• James Hansen: the worlds most respected and influential climatologist.
• Gwyneth Cravens: former editor of The New Yorker and author of Power to Save the World.
• Richard Rhodes: Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
• Charles Till: Nuclear physicist and director of the Integral Fast Reactor project.
• Mark Lynas: acclaimed environmentalist and award-winning author of Six Degrees and The God Species.
• Stephen Tindale: former Executive Director of Greenpeace/UK (2000-2005).
• Anne Lauvergeon: former CEO of AREVA (2001-2011), the French nuclear and renewable energy giant.
• Nathan Myhrvold: former lead technologist for Microsoft and creator of the Traveling Wave Reactor backed by Bill Gates
• Michael Shellenberger: noted environmental provocateur and author (The Death of Environmentalism) and director of The Breakthrough Institute.
• Leonard Koch: pioneering nuclear engineer in the field of fast reactors and the last surviving member of Enrico Fermi’s team that built the first power reactor.
• James Lovelock: creator of the Gaia Theory and one of the leading luminaries of the international environmental movement.

Story: Ken Pottinger



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