The case for alternative nuclear power will hit the bright lights next month when a film premiering at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival makes the case for reactor designs that are superior to conventional models.
The documentary Pandora’s Promise will show how nuclear can operate more efficiently, avoid any meltdown risks, and not leave dangerous waste – thus addressing public objections and helping fulfil nuclear’s promise of delivering CO2-free energy.
“The atomic bomb, the specter of a global nuclear holocaust, and disasters like Fukushima have made nuclear energy synonymous with the darkest nightmares of the modern world,” a promotional Sundance website announces.
“But what if everyone has nuclear power wrong?,” it continues. “What if people knew that there are reactors that are self-sustaining and fully controllable and ones that require no waste disposal? What if nuclear power is the only energy source that has the ability to stop climate change?”
Details of the film are sketchy, but promotional material on the Web suggests that it will focus on integral fast reactors (IFRs), which use nuclear “waste” as fuel rather than leaving it behind as a potential weapons threat.
It is produced and directed by Robert Stone, whose website lists Charles Till as a cast member.
Till led the development of the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in the U.S. until 1994, when Congress withdrew funding, in part for safety concerns and also because opponents argued that the reactor would actually increase the weapons proliferation threat, rather than decrease it as breeder proponents claim.
According to the Sundance site, executive producers include Steve Kirsch, a Los Angeles-area venture capitalist and an IFR booster.
IFR supporters include entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who earlier this year wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama encouraging the president and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to facilitate the development IFRs.
Branson wrote the letter along with U.S. climate scientist James Hansen, and with Eric Loewen, the chief engineer for GE-Hitachi’s PRISM fast reactor.
The letter criticizes the 1994 cancellation of the fast reactor project, and notes that IFRs are superior to the conventional uranium-fuelled, water-cooled reactors that dominate the industry. Conventional reactors slow down or “moderate” neutrons, making less use of fuel and leaving more waste.
Russia and China both have ambitious plans for fast reactors.
The film chronicles shifting allegiances among former anti-nuclear scientists and activists who are now backing nuclear –a theme that will resonate with Weinberg Foundation co-founder Baroness Bryony Worthington, a nuclear advocate who once campaigned against it for Friends of the Earth.
Stone’s website notes:
“Pandora’s Promise is a feature-length documentary that explores how and why mankind’s most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately embraced by many of those who once led the charge against it.
“The film is anchored around the personal narratives of a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists and pioneering scientists who, in the face of considerable controversy, are directly challenging the anti-nuclear orthodoxy that is a founding tenet of the mainstream environmental movement. Their stories and ideas will be brought to life through a combination of incredible archival footage from 1945 to the present and original filming across the globe.”
The Sundance premier will mark another example of the growing public attention for alternative nuclear. Earlier this month, the journal Nature published a feature stating that, “For decades, one design has dominated nuclear reactors while potentially better options were left by the wayside. Now, the alternatives might finally have their day.”
Pandora’s Promise is scheduled for release in U.S. cinemas in the summer of 2013.
Photo of Richard Branson from Google Plus.