Nuclear Film Extravaganza

January 18, 2013, 5:18PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

by Will Davis

Friday's "Nuclear Matinée" feature here at ANS Nuclear Cafe is a four-film cavalcade of documentaries about nuclear energy. One of these films premiered on January 18, while another has just been released. The other two have been around a while but are well worth viewing and make a good supplement to the two new films. Here is a rundown on each of the four films:

PANDORA'S PROMISE, director Robert Stone's documentary about the realities of nuclear energy and climate change, opened on Friday, January 18, for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. Stone is well known in the field of documentaries concerning things nuclear; his award-winning "Radio Bikini," a film that this writer saw when it was still fairly new, covered effects of nuclear weapons testing and was decidedly from Stone's anti-nuclear period. As Stone continued to pursue his environmental interests he came to realize that the anti-nuclear movement was incalculably disavowing the single energy source that could provide power around the clock with no GHG emissions. From his own site, we find his revelatory moment to be that when he realized just how little waste is generated from nuclear energy-even high-level waste.

You can view a teaser for Pandora's Promise by clicking here.

I will add that the timing of the first showing of this movie comes at what increasingly appears to be a significant moment both for the pro-nuclear advocacy world and the environmentalist world, as an article by Keith Kloor has taken the social media world by storm and continues to get coverage and has even been mirrored on Mother Jones. As to Robert Stone in an interesting parallel, his story seems in some ways to recall the journey of Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, who became pro-nuclear after being anti-nuclear.

ONCE UPON A NUCLEAR SHIP-The N.S. Savannah Documentary. Thomas Michael Conner/TCS Communications 2012. One hour 5 minutes.

Thomas Michael Conner's new documentary, available for purchase as a DVD or as a web download, covers the history of the only nuclear-powered commercial ship ever built in the United States, from the laying of the keel of the ship through 2006 when the ship was moved out of the James River Reserve Fleet for preservation. The real value of this documentary lies in the fact that it is entirely first-hand; Conner, himself a health physicist on the Savannah for several years, has rounded up a number of veterans of the ship's crew and allowed them lots of time to tell the ship's history and a number of what sailors and we Navy veterans call "sea stories." Unlike Pandora's Promise, which has only been seen in a snippet or two in advance of its first play today, I've seen this movie in its entirety and enjoyed every minute of it. This is a good film for anyone interested in the N.S. Savannah-but more than that, for those who have studied the ship, its design and its history (and thus are those people who "have everything" on the ship) this film is significant. The film runs just over one hour-and that hour goes by pretty quickly. You can find the website for this film by clicking here-and there is a trailer for the movie that auto-plays.

I have recently watched two other presentations that aren't exactly brand new, but that I highly recommend in this week of new documentaries as excellent additions if you haven't already seen them.

POWERING AMERICA-A Film About Nuclear Energy. The Heritage Foundation/Coldwater Media 2012. 40 minutes. This film is a brief but information-packed presentation on nuclear energy and our energy needs. The producers of this film directly address pressing questions-and investigate nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl frankly and clearly. The film addresses competing forms of energy and shows that nuclear is the "round the clock" answer that renewables aren't. The presentation is professional, well narrated, and well paced. After watching the film, I was left very impressed by its polish and was surprised to find it had only been about three quarters of an hour; the amount and quality of information presented was so rich that I thought surely more time had passed. We meet a number of nuclear professionals and plant operators as well as those who live and work near nuclear plants, enter nuclear power plant sites and control room simulators, and even a uranium mine in operation-right down to the deepest depths. This is a great background film to support the present wave of pro-nuclear environmentalism-and I give it five stars for its frankness. Click here to see the site for this film.

People, Passion & Purpose-A Laboratory Overview. Idaho National Laboratory. Nine minutes 10 seconds. This brief but excellent film covers some of the unseen operations of what formerly was thought of primarily as a research and testing facility for nuclear reactors-the Idaho National Laboratory. In light of the recent pro-nuclear environmentalist movement, and coupled with the film above from Heritage on nuclear energy, this overview gives the viewer a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at real, front line research at one of America's most important installations. It's said that the science fiction of yesterday becomes the science of today and the technology of tomorrow, and lots of that has actually happened at INL over the decades. The film is available for viewing free at the INL film site which is found here-although I received a mini disc copy (as well as Powering America on DVD) at the ANS Nuclear Technology Expo held concurrent with the 2012 ANS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

That's it! Four films well worth watching, in my opinion-and only one of which we need wait to see.

(NS Savannah illustration from Will Davis collection.)


Will Davis is a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society. In addition to this, Davis is on the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and also writes his own blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.


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