Tag Archives: Pandora’s Promise

CNA2017

Join Kirsty Gogan at CNA2017

gogan2Kirsty Gogan is co-founder of Energy for Humanity, a global NGO with an ambitious agenda to broaden the climate and energy debate to include all low-carbon technologies.

Gogan is an established expert in climate and energy communications with extensive experience as a senior advisor to UK government, industry, academic networks and non-profit organizations.

Among her many accomplishments, Gogan created the Low Carbon Alliance between the nuclear and renewables industries, representing more than 1,000 businesses and welcomed by Greenpeace.

As Deputy Head of Civil Nuclear Security, Gogan reviewed the UK national communications response to Fukushima, made a number of recommendations, and implemented them.

Gogan also created the first UK chapter of Women in Nuclear (WiN).

Gogan’s Energy for Humanity co-founders include Academy Award Nominee Robert Stone, whose 2014 documentary Pandora’s Promise makes the case for nuclear energy, and Daniel Aegerter, a Swiss entrepreneur and new voice for the pro-nuclear environmental movement.

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Prominent Environmentalists Embrace Nuclear

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

“I used to be anti-nuclear. But, several years ago I had to reevaluate my thinking because if you agree with the world’s leading climate scientists that global warming is real and must be addressed immediately then you cannot simply oppose clean, low-carbon energy sources.”

– Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy

Carol Browner
Carol Browner

Before climate change topped the environmental agenda, environmentalists often stood on opposite sides of the nuclear debate.

Even today, many big-name environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, remain opposed to nuclear power.

However, a growing number of prominent environmentalists and scientists have converted to the pro-nuclear camp, including those who had vehemently opposed nuclear power.

The reason is simple: Climate change is the top issue, and countries cannot meet both their energy needs and greenhouse-gas reduction targets using renewable energy sources alone.

Mark Lynas
Mark Lynas

Look no further than Germany and Japan to see countries that closed nuclear power plants only to see a rise in their use of coal and gas.

“Without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost,” environmentalist Mark Lynas wrote in a recent op-ed for The Guardian. “Even many greens now admit this in private moments.”

Lynas admits that he “grew up hating nuclear,” but converted to the pro-nuclear side after discovering the dangers had been exaggerated.

Another prominent pro-nuclear environmentalist is James Lovelock, the British scientist best known for the “Gaia hypothesis,” which proposes that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system, similar to a living organism.

James Lovelock
James Lovelock

“I think nearly all of the arguments against nuclear energy are just false and highly political,” Lovelock recently told the Globe and Mail.

“But it’s a question of how you compare: What’s the risk of powering your nation by nuclear power, compared with coal or oil? I think the case in favor of nuclear is enormously strong.”

Perhaps the most prominent pro-nuclear environmentalist is James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has been credited for being one of first to warn politicians and policy makers about the dangers of climate change.

Hansen was one of four environmental scientists who wrote a 2013 open letter urging the green movement to give up its opposition to nuclear power.

James Hansen
James Hansen

“While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power,” the letter said.

(Hansen is also the featured speaker at the 2015 Canadian Nuclear Association conference.)

Other prominent pro-nuclear environmentalists include Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace; author Gwyneth Cravens; and Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.

Cravens, Lynas, writer Stewart Brand, and writer Michael Schellenberger were among the notable environmentalists once opposed to nuclear who were featured in the 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise. The film focused on the environmental movement’s opposition to nuclear, even though it is a safe, low-carbon energy source needed to combat climate change.

Nuclear Education Nuclear Energy

Pandora’s Promise: Fuelling the Nuclear Debate

By Malcolm Bernard
Director of Communications
Canadian Nuclear Association

Pandora’s Promise is easily the most significant communications event to affect the nuclear industry this year, with the obvious exception of the recurring mistakes in cleaning up the Fukushima site.

The movie challenges a core belief held by the nuclear industry’s opponents, that the dangers of nuclear energy outweigh its benefits. In mounting that challenge, filmmaker Robert Stone has provided the nuclear industry with an effective vehicle to re-open public discussion.

Pandora’s Promise will be screened on CNN
Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 9 pm ET.
Click here for CNN’s coverage.

Yet the movie is no magic bullet. Cheered by industry insiders, and reviled by its opponents, the movie makes effective points without always providing adequate context. For those of us who lived through the Cold War, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s attempts to galvanize arms-control negotiations, and the trio of nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima, the movie covers familiar territory. We understand Stone’s point of view, as my colleague John Stewart points out.

For those who are new to the debate, the movie takes for granted that audiences have sufficient information to consider the points in play. Rosey Li, our marketing officer who is new to the nuclear industry, found the movie’s most significant evidence needed further interpretation.

Nuclear communicators owe the public a great deal of further information. If Pandora’s Promise catalyzes a public debate, then we need to engage the public with answers. Not a sales job. Just simple, accurate facts.

That’s why the Canadian Nuclear Association was established more than five decades ago. We’re still here. We hope that we’re still helpful, as new audiences take up enduring questions.

By the way, John Stewart takes up some of those questions here.

Enjoy your reading, and let us know what further information you require. We’re on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

More relevant links

Read a CNN article about Pandora’s Promise
Buy Pandora’s Promise on iTunes

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Pandora’s Promise: A Must-See Movie, but Often Confusing

The highly provocative and talked-about documentary Pandora’s Promise, directed by Robert Stone, argues that nuclear power is the best candidate to replace fossil fuels in a world with continuously increasing electricity demands.

The film follows the journey of previously anti-nuclear environmentalists as they talk about aspects of nuclear power that have changed their perspectives. After viewing the film, I can definitely see why the film has provoked such debate, and why some critics view it as a one-sided advertisement for the nuclear industry.

Pandora’s Promise makes several powerful assertions, but the lack of context or a comparison for the information thrown at you can render you confused (especially if you are brand new to the industry, like me).

For example, a graph-like representation of deaths by particular energy source depicts nuclear power as the second-safest energy source after wind since apparently the creation of solar panels is highly toxic and pollution from coal kills countless numbers of people. Exactly how many deaths are caused by solar and coal? We never find out.

Moreover, the filmmakers took a dosimeter to locations around the world, including Chernobyl, and showed numbers on the meter. Here again, context is missing. What do the numbers mean? What is the acceptable range of numbers on the dosimeter? I don’t know about you, but vague graphs and dosimeter readings are not enough for me, and probably not for anti-nuclear activists.

Stone’s film subtly critiques the groupthink mentality that occurs within environmental groups. That’s good. I think it’s very important for environmentalists to question and truly understand what they oppose in order to generate solid persuasive arguments rather than simply believe what they want to hear.

Nuclear Education Nuclear Energy

Pandora’s Promise Raises Good Questions for Environmentalists

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Both environmentalists and nuclear industry advocates are talking about a new and highly provocative film, Pandora’s Promise. What makes this conversation, and the film that inspires it, so interesting is that they are not in disagreement.

Director Robert Stone follows the journey of previously anti-nuclear environmentalists who have changed their views. Their conclusion is that nuclear is central to reducing fossil fuels as the source of electricity.

There are those who would consider it heresy to suggest that nuclear technology can lead us to a greener world, but more and more environmentalists are coming to see nuclear as an ally rather than the enemy. This is the result of a more comprehensive, evidence-based vision of the costs and impacts of each energy source, in the context of a sober realization that the demand for power will be met one way or another. Put simply, if we have to get energy from somewhere, we could do worse than get it from nuclear power – we could get it anywhere else. It is the unattractiveness of all the other options that has led the conversation right back to clean, affordable, inexpensive, and always-available nuclear power.

You simply cannot create such a film without hitting nerves and Pandora’s Promise shows a willingness to do so. Those who want to disagree with the conclusion will argue bias, but the participants, including the director, are all people who were once fervently anti-nuclear. As well, the filmmakers scrupulously avoided any nuclear industry support. And these are not the only converts; for example, George Monbiot, an environmentalist committed enough to personally swear off unnecessary air travel, has also embraced nuclear power. Yet, while being called a traitor by some former colleagues may be hard to take, it is liberating for any scientist to follow the facts wherever they lead.

For many policy makers and scientists there is little new in Pandora’s Promise, but the obstacle was never with them. Nuclear technology projects are large and politicians are sensitive to public opinion, even if that opinion is not always well-founded. Pandora’s Promise is an invitation to the public to reconsider, as did the participants in the film, their misconceptions about the costs, impact and safety of the technology.

It is natural that the science of climate change would find resistance when available options are poor and the cost of change is numbing. By putting the promise of nuclear back on the table, Pandora’s Promise may well restore hope that we can control our thirst for a limited supply of carbon.

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Pandora’s Promise: Questions and Answers

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Here are some questions raised by critics of Pandora’s Promise, and some opinions from the Canadian Nuclear Association.

Q.         Why doesn’t Pandora’s Promise present a more fair and balanced discussion about nuclear energy’s benefits and risks?

A.         Feature-length documentary films generally take a point of view.  No apologies for that.  The point of view of Pandora’s Promise is that there has been a strong, long-standing imbalance in attitudes toward nuclear energy. 

Q.         Why are the cited sources far from neutral? Is this film meant to be a one-sided sales job?

A.         “Sales job” implies that the persons behind the film are selling the product, but they’re not.  The film shows leading, long-active environmentalists explaining in their own words how they came around to new opinions about nuclear power.  Notice that the filmmaker barely appears, and there is little to no narrative overlay.  Pandora’s Promise is about these individuals’ journey from anti- to pro-nuclear, and it is part of their own struggle, in their own words, to redress what they see as misunderstanding and misinformation.

Q.         Why choose to rely on testimonials from environmentalists and exclude the anti-nuclear movement when everyone knows the real problem is the nature of nuclear energy?

A.         If nuclear’s advocates talk about economics, they’re accused of sidestepping environmental issues.  Now it’s the other way around.  In fact the two can’t be separated.  The “nature of nuclear energy,” in the eyes of both advocates and critics, is in large part about its environmental impacts (whether one believes they are large or small).  Yes, it’s possible to have a purely commercial conversation about the cost and reliability of electricity – but ultimately that conversation is incomplete if environmental impacts aren’t factored in.

Q.         According to the facts, how many deaths will the Chernobyl plant have caused?

A.         We’re glad you’ve equated our view with the facts, because we rely on the multi-agency Chernobyl Forum, which was put together by the United Nations.  In 2005 the Forum found that fewer than 50 deaths were directly attributed to radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident up to that time, and that up to 4000 people could eventually die from that cause.  To put this into context, 47 people were directly killed by the crude oil explosion in Quebec in 2013, and some 4000 people a year die each year – each year – in coal mining in just one country, China.  

Q.         Why does The Chernobyl Forum, which estimated cancer deaths only among the most highly exposed population in Ukraine, leave out other parts of Europe which also suffered exposure?

A.         The Forum also looks at affected areas of other countries, such as Belarus and Russia.  But “exposed” is not the same as “harmed.”  The Forum recommends focusing on the most highly affected areas.  Even in those irradiated areas, the Forum finds that poverty, “lifestyle” diseases and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.

Q.         Are there, or are there not, at least 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer caused by Chernobyl?

A.         Well, no.  The Forum said that number (coincidentally) is about 4,000, nine of which were deaths as of 2005.

Q.         Why use the 2005 UN report on Chernobyl, from the IAEA and WHO, which has been widely discredited for suppressing key data?

A.         “Widely discredited” by whom and on what actual evidence?  The IAEA has several other responsibilities like security, safety and safeguards.  And it was one of eight UN agencies involved in the Forum.  You are asking us to believe not only that the IAEA pursued one specific goal to the detriment of the others, but that seven other UN agencies, including the World Health Organization, were involved, and that all their professional staffs went along with this.  Perhaps the accusers can tell us how and why such an alleged cover-up occurred and what possible motive all those organizations and professionals would have had for assisting it.

Q.         Is nuclear energy the best option?   Or just the least worst option?

A.         We will always need a mix of energy sources.  So it is not necessarily about being the best option, or the least worst option.  It is about evaluating our options fairly based on actual facts and evidence.  The environmentalists in the movie have merely come to the conclusion that nuclear deserves to be an option.

Q.         Could filmmaker Robert Stone have made more of an effort to look at other forms of energy, particularly renewables?

A.         That would be relevant if the film director had set out to create a policy paper or an engineering report, and if the point were to select one option as being superior to another.  As we’ve said, we will always need a mix of energy sources.  Pandora’s Promise is about certain individuals telling a story in their own words.

Q.         Why does your industry keep saying nuclear is key to base load generation when wind combined with solar match up very well with patterns of peak demand?

A.         Two reasons.  First, already the great majority of all electricity generation is for base load, so you can’t solve the emissions problem without addressing it.  Second, a number of trends in the energy market – things like time-of-use pricing, smart meters, and recharging of batteries at night — are tending to blunt the peaks and fill the valleys of the demand cycle.  Electric vehicles will accelerate that trend, because they too will be recharged at non-peak periods.  That’s good, because it uses generation capacity more fully.  And that further increases the role of base load in the system.  

Q.         How do we know that their changed view has made Mark Lynas and Michael Shellenberger somehow more competent, or more credible?

A.         We all start out with limited information.  But as humans we are not always great at seeking more of it, or of integrating new knowledge into our views.  The fact that Lynas and Shellenberger and other environmentalists have adapted their opinions, and even been willing to turn them around completely, in the face of resistance from friends and colleagues, as they acquired more information,  says something important about their characters and thinking.

Q.         Instead of just acknowledging the environmentalists who have been converted to nuclear, shouldn’t you also acknowledge that there are former nuclear supporters who now oppose the technology?

A.         Actually, that’s erroneous.  Opinion research shows a strong correlation between knowing more about nuclear technology and being more comfortable with it.  In Canada, support for nuclear technology is highest in populations that live close to nuclear facilities, where knowledge of the impacts is also the highest.

Q.         Why is it that the more people in Ontario learn about your plans for a deep-earth storage chamber for low-level waste, the more they oppose it?

A.         There are complications in measuring this kind of opinion.  It’s important to separate people’s factual information about a project from their mere awareness that a project exists.  Having heard of a project and having it at the front of your mind is not the same thing as having information about it.  So “learning more” about something has to be carefully distinguished from being made suspicious and afraid of it.  The one promotes support – as we see in the communities around a nuclear power plant – and the other promotes opposition.  The complication is measuring opposition.  You need to survey the whole community, not just measure the loudness of the opposition.  Loud opposition must not be mistaken for public opinion across the community.  Okay, maybe people in a certain area are against a deep geological repository, but let’s see a statistically valid poll before we accept that they are.