The statement “absolute power corrupts absolutely” not only really applies to politics, but also to actual power companies. In Robert Stone’s documentary, Pandora’s Promise, the intermingling of environmental activism and corporate greed come to light when talking about the possibly not all that bad my comparison nuclear power industry. It’s designed to ruffle a few feathers and makes some valid points along the way, but there’s a greater overarching message here that no one, not even Stone seems able to pick up on.
Coloured by the use of atomic energy as a means to build weapons of mass destruction and not helped very much by the ensuing misinformation and fear built up around that, nuclear energy has always been known as the efficient, but evil stepchild in the power generating industry. In fact, when produced properly, it’s more environmentally friendly than coal and even solar power (thanks to the toxic chemicals needed to produce solar panelling), and barely worse than wind turbines (which still need gas to function). It’s not perfect, but then again, what is?
Stone follows around a band of environmental advocates and academics to talk about why they previously hated nuclear power and how their minds have been changed by what they learned over the years. There’s also an intriguing look back talking to some of the people who came up with nuclear power that have turned slightly sour looking back on how maximum profitability twisted their idea for a renewable source of energy into something easily derided. Even with the risk factors involved, nuclear is still painted as being a reliable source of energy whilee twisting of facts, an over dependence on misinterpreted numbers and statistics, and sometimes sham protests funded by big oil and coal are determined to keep it down.
A lot of the points are inarguable, but the core concept that Stone doesn’t touch on is that he plays directly into the hands of the nuclear lobby without painting a balanced enough picture. It’s not enough to simply say that most of nuclear energy’s problems come as a result of using a more wasteful type of reactor, there has to be a counterpoint that’s not being discredited. While it’s easy to say that nuclear power has been kept down by going on facts alone, the indisputable elephant in the room is that every single source of power and energy is corrupt to some degree, and nuclear power is no exception. It’s simply not enough to throw every other energy producer under the bus to turn the product you have decided to back into some kind of flawed, but misunderstood saint. Great points are raised, but more balance is definitely needed here.