by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
This forum has noted in the past TIME magazine writer Bryan Walsh‘s regularly skewed coverage of the global warming debate. That’s why it’s interesting to read in the latest TIME that Walsh has nice things to say about a new documentary, “Pandora’s Promise,” that focuses on the benefits of nuclear power.
According to a recent U.N. report, there will likely be no detectable health impacts from the radiation released by the Fukushima meltdown. The biggest catastrophe in nuclear power since Chernobyl has turned out to be less catastrophic than it seemed. And that’s one of many reasons that nuclear energy, which has been demonized by environmentalists, deserves a fresh look.
That fresh look is precisely what Pandora’s Promise sets out to offer. Loosely following the stories of a handful of writers and environmentalists who have reconsidered their knee-jerk opposition to nukes, the film makes the case that nuclear energy really does have the power to save the world.
Nuclear plants are the only source of power–other than hydro, which has hit its limits–that can supply base-load electricity on a mass scale without producing greenhouse-gas emissions. (Renewable sources like wind and solar are important, but they’re too intermittent for now to meet growing global energy demand.) The danger from radiation has been overblown by some activists, and even the rare accidents at nuclear sites haven’t caused that much harm–especially compared with the 14,000 American deaths each year because of air pollution from coal plants. In the face of climate change, it is difficult to be fundamentally antinuclear–and yet there’s not a single major environmental group staunchly in favor of more nuclear power plants.
Pandora’s Promise is at its best when debunking nuclear fears, tracing that anxiety to the loathing that surrounds nuclear weapons.