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Robert Stone and Pandora's Promise

By Noel Wauchope - posted Friday, 11 October 2013

Pandora's Promise's Australian premiere was in Melbourne on October 8th, with director Robert Stone answering questions afterwards.

I found myself liking Robert Stone , for his enthusiasm, and sincere concern about climate change.

I found myself disliking the film, for its sins of omission, and manipulative way of discrediting anti nuclear people.


"Pandora's Promise" presents as a documentary about climate change and nuclear power. It is very stylishly made and interesting, story on the theme that climate change is an urgent danger, and that nuclear power is the major solution to this. It is a very, very good soft sell for the nuclear industry

"Pandora's Promise" uses the voices of people, mainly from the nuclear power lobby,The Breakthrough Institute, to present its argument. Mark Lynas, Michael Shellenberger, Gwyneth Craven, Stewart Brand, Richard Rhodes all portray themselves as former anti nuclear activists who have now seen the light, and are pro nuclear.

The film certainly highlights the reality of climate change, the health hazards of the coal industry, and the need for action on climate change. Indeed, that's the background and stated reason for its main premise – that premise being - the world should now urgently adopt nuclear power.

Here's where the subtle, and not always so subtle, manipulation comes in. A large part of the film goes over the bad things about nuclear power, the poor safety design of early reactors, the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. We are led to sympathise with the anti nuclear movement and its idealism.

But then – hey presto, we learn, almost magically, that our speakers, having talked with experts, now realise that new nuclear reactors are safe and good. Today's environmental and anti nuclear movement , we are told, consists of well-meaning, but ignorant and uninformed people who are denying science.

They are shown to have an irrational fear of ionising radiation. In this they are shown as the same as climate change denialists, denying the scientific consensus. But the scientific consensus, including the World Health Organisation, is that ionising radiation is dangerous to health, even at low levels.


On the radiation question, the film is simply dishonest. It misrepresents the World Health Organisation's position on low dose radiation, and on Fukushima. (WHO has in fact, predicted a later increase in cancer among women exposed to Fukushima radiation).

It trots out the absurd argument about bananas being more radioactively harmful than nuclear radiation. ( Bananas do contain radioactive potassium-40. However, our bodies have a constant amount of potassium-40, and it does not increase through eating bananas. Any excess is quickly eliminated. However, man made radioactive isotopes like cesium -137 accumulate in the body, and are very dangerous)

There is not one voice in this film to provide an opposing point of view – the assumption is made that no scientifically qualified person is against nuclear power.

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About the Author

Noel Wauchope taught science before switching to nursing. She has several post-graduate qualifications, in health informatics, medical terminology and clinical coding. She is a long time anti-nuclear activist.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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