Pandora's False Promises

Pandora's Promise, is a new pro-nuclear propaganda documentary released theatrically in the US in July 2013. It is funded in part by individuals with a vested interest in seeing the development of new reactors and is seemingly a vehicle by which to raise the profile of the anti-environmental Oakland think tank, The Breakthrough Institute, whose personnel feature prominently in the film. Despite the film's premise and early claim that it features "a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists" who now support nuclear energy, no one in the film ever led the anti-nuclear movement. Nor was any credible, independent scientific or medical professional with expertise in the areas covered in the film consulted or featured. Beyond Nuclear has bird-dogged the film from the beginning, and has produced numerous critiques. We have also published a definitive report - Pandora's False Promises: Busting the pro-nuclear propaganda - and a two-page synopsis. These documents address virtually all of the myths, lies and omissions typically found in pro-nuclear rhetoric and are intended to address these long after Pandora's Promise fades into deserved oblivion.



WORLD BANK: "we don't do nuclear energy"

“We don’t do nuclear energy” was the categorical pronouncement made this week by the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim. The World Bank says it will not fund nuclear power instead giving development money to sustainable energy projects.

Kim and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to ensure all people have access to electricity by 2030.  The announcement roundly contradicts a favorite sound bite of the Pandora’s Promise promoters who insist nuclear energy is the only hope to electrify the Third World. 

Pointing out that nuclear is an "extremely political issue," Kim stated that the bank would look only at new technologies, including solar, wind and geothermal energy. “We will show investors that sustainable energy is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss,” he said.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to ensure all people have access to electricity by 2030, as part of a joint effort by the U.N. and World Bank called The Sustainable Energy for All initiative. This initiative will focus on supplying modern energy services such as lighting, clean cooking solutions and power for productive purposes in developing countries, as well as scaled-up energy efficiency, especially in the world’s highest-energy consuming countries.

Kim said "The World Bank Group does not engage in providing support for nuclear power. We think that this is an extremely difficult conversation that every country is continuing to have..."

“And because we are really not in that business our focus is on finding ways of working in hydro electric power, in geo-thermal, in solar, in wind,” he said.


“We are really focusing on increasing investment in those modalities and we don’t do nuclear energy..."  

Clearly, the World Bank has adopted an energy funding policy that has abandoned nuclear investment in the developing world. This follows the Bank's only direct funding for a nuclear power reactor in Italy in 1959-- a General Electric design --to the tune of 40 million dollars (almost 2/3 of the construction cost). At that time, after a four year examination, the Bank concluded "...there were good prospects that power could be produced by a nuclear plant at costs competitive, or close to competitive, with power produced by a conventional plant..." but only under certain restrictions.

Turns out this initial Bank conclusion was too hopeful. The Garigliano nuclear power facility shut down in 1982, after being offline for four years and following a series of accidents and radioactive spills into groundwater eventually contaminating the Garigliano River. It appears, to its credit, the World Bank has learned from this decades-old mistake.

While the Bank has not directly funded nuclear power since this sole investment, there is evidence that the Czech Republic and Bulgaria funneled general funds from World Bank projects into nuclear energy. It is not clear that either the Czech Republic or Bulgaria would have fit the country profile for viable operation of nuclear power that the World Bank said, in the late 50's, was necessary for its funding nuclear. If not, it is possible these funds were misappropriated by the receiving countries. These restrictions included sufficient availability of capital, extensive generation and distribution systems, rate payers who could afford higher-than-normal electricity costs, high conventional energy costs, and back up energy capacity to compensate for nuclear power failure, among others.

Ultimately, the World Bank seems to conclude that an investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is much better than one in nuclear, especially for underserved nations: "With the skyrocketing demand for electricity in underserved communities and the need to expand access to communities that have no service at all, the focus is on low cost, low investment alternatives..." CleanTechnica

Add to this the Fukushima catastrophe, the democratic and security hurdles that plague nuclear energy worldwide, and it becomes clear that the Bank is looking to fund a more safe, secure and affordable energy footing in the developing world.


the World Bank finds renewable energy a far more attractive investment.
the World Bank finds renewable energy a far more attractive investment.

Freedom and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) takes on CNN's "Pandora's Promise"

November 21, 2013, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes on CNN's one-sided pro-nuclear film "Pandora's Promise" by examining the journalistic promotional bias




CNN oped by Kevin Kamps and Linda Gunter

Read the oped by Linda Gunter and Kevin Kamps, published by CNN, on why nuclear power is not the answer to climate change. The oped was commissioned to rebut CNN's screening of Pandora's Promise on November 7th.

Here is the lead, then read more:

The climate change crisis is upon us. The world's leading climate scientists agree that time is rapidly running out and that urgent steps are needed in the next 10 years to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. But exchanging global warming for nuclear meltdown is not the answer.

From a purely practical standpoint — and ignoring for a moment nuclear power's other showstoppers such as cost, unmanaged nuclear waste, atomic weapons proliferation and catastrophic accident — there simply isn't time to choose nuclear power. There are faster, affordable alternatives, including energy efficiency and renewable energy installations such as wind farms and solar arrays that can be completed in months to a few years.

The average construction time for a new nuclear power reactor is close to 10 years. A 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study concluded that more than two new reactors would have to start operating somewhere in the world every month over the next 50 years to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil-fuel generation.

Such a fantasy does not pass the reality check in corporate boardrooms or on Wall Street where nuclear power has been soundly rejected. The exorbitant costs and unpredictably long completion time -- a reactor at Watts Bar in Tennessee, for example, was "under construction" for 23 years and may be connected to the grid by 2015 -- make nuclear power an unappealing, even reckless, business choice for corporations and shareholders. Read the rest of the article.


Beyond Nuclear takes on the Breakthrough Institute

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps debated Breakthrough Institute's Michael Shellenberger (far left) in Headline News "The Lion's Den" November 7, 2013 over Robert Stone's one-side nuclear power promotional film "Pandora's Promise."



Pandora's meltdown on CNN

Reports Deadline Hollywood: "Well, one thing is for sure: Cable news viewers like films about killer whales a lot more than ones about pro-nuclear power. CNN’s airing of the documentary Pandora’s Promise delivered a wet 345,000 total viewers in its 9-11 PM time slot and just 145,000 among adults 25-54. The heavily promoted Robert Stone-directed film was way, way down from the 1.36 million that CNN Films’ Blackfish drew in total viewers in the same slot two weeks beforehand."