Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pandora’s Promise ~ a film about nuclear energy

Guest blog post by Robert Stone

clip_image002For over forty years we have been inundated with countless documentary films about the dangers of nuclear power. I am a documentary filmmaker (right) whose first major film, Radio Bikini (nominated for an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary of 1987) was a cautionary tale of dangers of radiation; in that case about the impact of nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946.

That so many of us conflated our legitimate abhorrence of nuclear weapons with an equally passionate abhorrence of civilian nuclear power is a subject that is not well understood. Yet it has, I believe, contributed in some measure to at least thirty years of paralysis in our efforts to transition away from fossil fuels.

greenhouse_gases While in the past, the need to make this transition was driven largely by economic and national security concerns, today it is no exaggeration to say that the survival of human civilization is at stake in this effort.

I am sad to say this, but a certain degree of responsibility for the climate crisis must fall squarely on the shoulders of the environmental movement due to its longstanding campaign to completely do away with (rather than to improve) the one technology that has a very real potential to actually end the burning of fossil fuels.

My most recent film, Earth Days, recounted the history of the modern environmental movement between about 1950 and 1980. It was the Closing Night Film at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, had a 50 city theatrical run and was broadcast on PBS/ American Experience. It is a virtual love letter to the environmental movement of my youth.

New film project ~ Pandora’s Promise

I am now embarking on a new feature-length documentary called Pandora’s Promise (web site) about the history and future of nuclear power, told mainly (though not entirely) through the eyes of one-time opponents of nuclear power who now believe, as I do, that it is a vital necessity in mitigating the potential for a man-made climate catastrophe. The film has been in the research and development stage for well over a year. (Image of Pandora by: Marta Dahlig)

The major figures I will be featuring in this film include such luminaries as: Jim Hansen, Stewart Brand, Richard Rhodes, Stephan Tindale, Charles Till, Gwyneth Cravens, James Lovelock, Anne Lauvergeon, Evgeny Velikhov and several others.

A big focus of the film will be on the game-changing potential of new 4th generation reactor technology like the Integral Fast Reactor. Our first shoot begins next week at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and an extensive interview with Dr. Charles Till.

Blog at National Geographic

I have just been contracted to blog about the making of Pandora’s Promise as part of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge. My blog will appear under the banner ‘Pandora’s Promise’ twice a month on the National Geographic website. It will be mirrored on Huffington Post and several other sites.

Pandora’s Promise is being financed largely through tax-deductible donations through our 501C3 fiscal sponsor, the Human Arts Association in New York. To date we have raised $20,000 in development money, with large-scale commitments of nearly $500,000 once the balance of our $1.1 million budget is raised philanthropically.

But as this story is moving very rapidly, with the media finally getting wind of the sea change afoot within the environmental movement as it relates to nuclear power, we are beginning production right away. Our goal is to have the film ready in time to premier it at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and to have it in movie theaters before the 2012 general election.

Fund a film

We are seeking financial assistance to continue production. All contributions are fully tax-deductible. Contributions of $1,000 and up will earn you a thank-you credit in the film.

Please visit our website: Robert Stone Productions to make an easy contribution via PayPal or credit card for any amount. Please note that corporate donations from the nuclear power industry will not be accepted.

Robert Stone Productions / Studio Building
11 Morton Road, Rhinebeck, New York 12572
Web page with contact form

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rks said...

I'm disappointed that Prof David MacKAy isn't on the list of people interviewed. He was head of the Inference Group at Cambridge University's Physics Dept. His web pages were quite left wing and pacificist. He started writing a book "Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air" with drafts available on the Internet. Initially Nuclear was classified as not sustainable. However that gradually changed, because (my guess) he couldn't make the sums add up without Nuclear. After the book was published (still free on the net as well) he got the job of chief scientific advisor to the UK Ministry of Energy and Climate Change [then he took all the political stuff off his web pages]. He is also a very good communicator. See some of his talks at http://www.withouthotair.com/Videos.html.

Anonymous said...

From Robert Stone . . .

David MacKay is very much on my radar, though not currently on my primary list of main characters. The more people I interview the less screen time each of them get. It's often a very tough call. Two important things to keep in mind about films of this kind:

1) one good witness is as good as a hundred.
2) the message is only as good as the messenger.

So while I do hope to interview David McKay, I'm not yet certain he will make the final cut. The others listed I'm pretty sure will be in. And remember too that documentaries are a process of discovery. Nothing is set in stone until it's done.

Please feel fee to pass this along....

rmaltese said...

Hi Robert

There is a time and place for everything. In terms of significant 4th generation reactors the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor deserves a mention if not an entire documentary on that subject alone. The story behind Alvin Weinberg and Eugene Wigner being chemists as well as nuclear physicists and the outcome of their separation from Enrico Fermi is fascinating. Some heavyweight characters to consider interviewing are Charles Barton Junior who runs the http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com. His father worked on the original MSR prototypes. Kirk Sorensen is perhaps the foremost authority on Thorium Molten Salt Reactors and does a talk that does a nice job of of the history and summarizing the main points. Google Tech Talk:A Nuclear Waste Burning Liquid Salt Thorium Reactor and runs the http://energyfromthorium.com website.

Kirk Sorensen said...

This sounds like a great project and I'd love to be involved, but I would strongly encourage the filmmaker to look beyond the Integral Fast Reactor as the answer to our future power needs and instead give serious consideration to the merits of thorium and the liquid-fluoride reactor. They are QUITE different from one another, and depending on which path we take we will have very divergent outcomes.