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.



Press releases point out flaws and omissions in Pandora's Promises

Prior to its theatrical release, Beyond Nuclear sent press releases to the mainstream and independent media and also to the film critics across the country and those in the specific media markets where the film was to be screened theatrically.


Where are the screenings of Pandora's (false) Promises?

Please consider attending a screening of Pandora's Promise, the misleading pro-nuclear propaganda film. It opens in a number of cities next month. Please download our handout and consider leafleting. Below is the calendar of openings.

June 12: New York City

June 14: Atlanta, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Irvine, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Saint Louis and DC.

June 21: Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Portland and Scottsdale.
July 5: Santa Fe.




The review you won't find on Breakthrough's website

We posted this earlier after the Sundance screening but it's worth a repeat.

Pandora's Promise: Sundance Review

6:40 PM PST 1/23/2013 by Justin Lowe

The Bottom Line

Effectively reframing the anti-nuclear debate will require more than self-serving advocacy.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Documentary Premieres

Director: Robert Stone

Eco-doc director Robert Stone attempts to shed light on the dark side of nuclear energy.

PARK CITY – The nuclear-energy and defense industries will be rubbing their hands over this shameless recantation of anti-nuke opinion, led by director Robert Stone, who brought the issue to Sundance back in 1987 with his Academy-Award nominated “Radio Bikini.” With the national appetite for debating nuclear energy extremely low at this point, exposure may be limited to small-screen current-affairs junkies and VOD audiences.
With climate change widely recognized as one of the predominant environmental, economic and political issue of the decade, a reevaluation of the nation’s energy mix is certainly warranted at a time when fossil fuel sources, in particular natural gas, are making a resurgence, while alternative energy continues to struggle in the marketplace. Combining a limited set of perspectives from environmental advocates and nuclear experts, Stone’s film takes a carefully targeted look at the status of nuclear energy in the US and beyond, advocating the position that nuclear should be reconsidered as the primary source to meet the country’s energy needs while limiting emissions that contribute to climate change.
Beginning with an historical perspective, Pandora’s Promiseexamines the emergence of the anti-nuclear movement, when “ban the bomb” and “save the whales” campaigns contributed to widespread opposition to atomic energy, along with the movement’s traditional anti-war stance. Nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and most recently Fukushima have helped solidify negative public opinion.
Nuclear experts who’ve worked on advanced reactor research, Len Koch and Charles Till explain that a new generation of contemporary reactor designs offers more efficiency and safety, while generating less waste, then current light-water reactors, the predominant designs used in the US.
Leading technologist and environmentalist Stewart Brand concedes that the environmental movement’s widespread anti-nuclear orthodoxy is based on some legitimate safety concerns, but questions if those opinions are perhaps misguided or misinformed. Author and former nuclear opponent Gwyneth Cravens suggests that the conflation of atomic bomb testing and deployment with nuclear energy led to widespread opposition over fundamental fears of radiological contamination.
British environmental writer and former activist Mark Lynas found his opinion on nuclear shifting after he reevaluated energy options with the potential to minimize climate-changing emissions.  Environmental policy expert Michael Shellenberger had a change of heart when he considered the inadequacy of current approaches to mitigating climate change and reexamined the facts and research regarding the ecological and public health impacts of nuclear energy, as well as the potential of “next generation” technology.
The other, unheard, voice in support of nuclear is of course Stone’s. After completing a number of environmental advocacy documentaries, he's now adopting a pro-nuclear stance. Part of the problem with this shift in viewpoint, however, is that the film’s restricted scope of analysis and limited selection of sources threatens to undermine its conclusions.
Among other salient points, these commentators collectively contend that nuclear energy has contributed to a very small number of direct fatalities and that notable accidents have not had the severe long-term ecological and health effects first anticipated. They also opine that the nation’s nuclear waste problem is not as widespread as widely believed and that the reactor material is safely stored under current conditions. Alternative energy options including wind and solar are criticized for their lack of flexibility and reliance on natural gas for backup power when weather conditions offline the primary sources.
Several of these observers also minimize the potential savings from energy efficiency and conservation, without considering the impact that widespread changes in economic policy, agriculture, transportation and technology could contribute to reducing energy use. They further justify nuclear as a safe, clean method of delivering power for developing economies, although the film never features any speakers from these nations discussing domestic energy priorities. And the contention that nuclear energy is “cleaner” than other sources because it minimizes emissions fails to look at impacts associated with the entire twenty-plus year lifecycle of building, fueling, maintaining and decommissioning nuclear plants, as well as the mining and production of nuclear fuel.
While many of these topics may merit reexamination, Stone never offers subjects with countervailing opinions to challenge his new pro-nuclear doctrine. Perhaps most disconcerting, Cravens, Lynas and Shellenberger admit that they were poorly informed about nuclear energy, as well as some fundamental ecological and policy issues, implying that they’re now better positioned to comment objectively on the technology.
Stone illustrates the documentary’s reframing of the nuclear energy debate with archival clips, computer animation, subject interviews and a globetrotting segment with Lynas visiting both Chernobyl and Fukushima, where he admits that the levels of background radiation are giving him a “bit of a wobble” on his pro-nuclear stance. Overall it’s a slick, attractively packaged advocacy film that will provoke thought and perhaps even change some minds among those unprepared to examine the doc’s underlying methodology.
The irony that screenings of Pandora’s Promise were preceded by presentations of a short documentary from the Focus Forward series, a filmmaking project supported by GE (a leading nuclear reactor manufacturer), was perhaps not lost on some viewers.

NEW! Busting the pro-nuclear propaganda

In response to some of the myths about nuclear energy advanced in the documentary, Pandora's Promise - but in larger part in response to the pro-nuclear propaganda in circulation generally - Beyond Nuclear is today releasing:

Pandora's False Promises: Busting the pro-nuclear propaganda.

This report, in the form of handy bullet points but fully referenced throughout, is designed to serve as a central source for many of the facts about nuclear power that are either ignored, obscured or mis-represented by the nuclear deniers.

The different sections cover, among many topics: climate change; the health impacts of Chernobyl and Fukushima; Germany's nuclear exit and France's dependence on it; the flaws and impracticabilities of the "new" reactor designs; and various misleading arguments made by the pro-nuclear propagandists, from base load energy to bananas.

In addition, we have published a two-page summary and a press release.

Please feel free to download, print and circulate these documents widely. Please also consider using these materials when the film is screened in your area.

If you would prefer us to send printed copies, we are happy to do so at cost. Simply send a request by email to: info@beyondnuclear. org. Or call: 301.270.2209.


More fuzzy math from The Breakthrough Institute

The nuclear deniers and climate luke-warmers at The Breakthrough Insitute are once again damning solar energy (and their favorite target, Germany) through fuzzy math and factual omissions, something at which they excel. In the Wall Street Journal - which you can't access unless you subscribe - on their own website and on a rather dodgy website called The Energy Collective, articles have appeared that suggest the embattled and unfinished Finnish reactor at Olkiluoto will generate electricity that is four times cheaper than Germany's solar energy.

(We call The Energy Collective "dodgy" because it boasts that it features "the world's best thinkers on energy and climate" which is grandiose enough to doubt right away. In reality it appears to be a convenient front for climate deniers, oil companies, The Breakthrough Institute and others whose agenda is to bash renewables and efficiency in favor of fracking, nuclear etc. It features articles that rely on out of date numbers and "studies" funded by the notorious Koch brothers. And it is funded by Siemens and Shell among others.)

But while Trembath et al. of the Breakthrough bunch argue that "proponents of Germany's Energiewende … argue that solar and wind can make up the difference in lost [nuclear] capacity" that's not actually the goal. Germans are switching to wind, solar, and biomass, and they do not believe a switch to renewables will work unless they drastically lower their consumption. Energiewende's Craig Morris looked atTrembath's fuzzy math.  Read on:

While I poured over his math for nuclear, I could not help but wonder, however, why he bothered. We already know what a kilowatt-hour of new nuclear will have to cost for EDF to build a new plant in the UK: around 9.5 pence per kilowatt-hour. That's roughly 0.114 euros or closer to 0.15 dollars – so the French firm is asking the British government for more than twice as much as Mr. Trembath says nuclear power in Finland will cost.

Trembath says his "findings challenge the idea that solar photovoltaic is a disruptive… technology," but by the end of this decade solar and wind power will be pushing heavily into the baseload, thereby forcing these plans to ramp down – something nuclear does not do.

The two new reactors planned for Hinkley Point C in the UK will have a total capacity of 3,200 MW at a price tag of 14 billion pounds, or around 22 billion dollars. Olkiluoto will have only half of that capacity (1,600 MW) but apparently cost 15 billion dollars, putting the cost of a MW in Britain at only 73 percent of the cost in Finland. So according to his math, the British should only be paying 73 percent of half of what the Finns will pay – not the 15 cents being discussed, and not the seven cents in Finland, but 73% of seven, or around 5.13 cents.

But back to solar in Germany – as my colleague Felix Matthes tweeted yesterday, the cost of solar is plummeting. Trembath takes figures from 2000-2011 for solar and compares them to future theoretical estimates for a new plant not yet in operation. At present, though, the feed-in tariffs for newly installed arrays in Germany are dropping by 1.8 percentage points per month. On June 1, the highest price will be 0.15 euros for the smallest rooftop arrays, with the lowest price dropping to 0.104 euros – equivalent to a range of 0.19-0.13 USD.

The first new solar arrays in Germany are thus already cheaper than what EDF is asking for to build new nuclear in the UK. That price for nuclear will be locked in for decades, whereas solar keeps getting less expensive.

Of course, at a monthly reduction of 1.8 percent, it will take the smallest solar arrays some time before they cost only 0.15 USD (EDF's offer for Hinckley). An entire year, in fact – in June 2014, the most expensive feed-in tariffs for new PV arrays in Germany will cost 14.75 US cents (11.71 euro cents) at current reduction rates. Who knows what solar will cost seven or eight years from now, when Hinckley Point C is finished?

Finally, the first feed-in tariffs for solar built years ago will expire after 20 years next decade, so we will have solar at less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour replacing decades-old solar at 50 cents per kilowatt-hour. By 2030, lots of really cheap solar will have replaced the old expensive stuff in Germany, but if you build a nuclear plant now, you will be stuck with it (at 15 cents per kWh) until mid-century. Nuclear does not ramp down well, so it is not compatible with intermittent wind and solar. If you are waiting until solar gets cheap to build it, you need to get rid of nuclear now. 

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