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Movie review: ‘Pandora’s Promise’

Posted 4:00pm on Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013

Unrated; 88 min.


Most documentaries are made by and for the left and preach to the converted. Pandora’s Promise comes from a leftward direction, too, but from a special slant so unanticipated that it will take the usual documentary watcher by surprise.

Directed by veteran documentarian Robert Stone, Pandora’s Promise methodically makes the case for nuclear power, and in the process clears up a lot of disinformation that has been floating out there for years. The main talking heads in the film are environmentalists, such as Gwyneth Cravens, who fought against nuclear power for years and now embrace it as a clean, effective and safer alternative to oil and coal.

According to the documentary, just about everything we’ve been told about nuclear power for the past 30 years is wrong. For example, what about nuclear waste? Actually, very little of it is generated, and much of it can be reused.

The movie gives a chance for the anti-nuclear spokesman Helen Caldicott to make the opposing case, but she seems flustered and irritated at being questioned. Then again, Stone might have found someone to present the other point of view besides Caldicott, who became famous in the 1980s for predicting that President Ronald Reagan’s Soviet policy would result in a nuclear war.

I am in no position to assess the scientific arguments made here, but at the very least, the environmentalists making the case for nuclear are neither stupid nor obtuse, and the arguments that they make deserve a careful hearing — that the efficacy of wind and solar is a cherished myth; that the fossil fuel companies love the solar and wind argument because they know (unlike nuclear) that they could never replace oil and coal; that the nuclear energy technology of today is safe; and that nuclear is the only way to reverse global warming.

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— Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

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