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The Unofficial Guide to Pandora's Promise, a Documentary Film About Nuclear Energy by Robert Stone (Bumped)

Updated Editor's Note: The next big date on the Pandora's Promise calendar is November 7 at 9:00 p.m. U.S. EST. That's when the film will make it's cable television debut on CNN. A crew from the cable network visited NEI a few weeks ago, and we anticipate that you'll see a number of features about the future of the nuclear energy industry air over the next several weeks. Be sure to watch on November 7, and join us on Twitter as we participate in a real-time chat about the film using the #PandorasPromise hash tag.

Editor's Note: Here at NEI, we're keeping a close eye on Pandora's Promise, a documentary film by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Stone about how many prominent environmentalists have changed their minds about nuclear energy because of concerns about climate change.  The film was produced independently from the nuclear industry. Among the financial backers of Pandora's Promise are Richard Branson and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

As coverage of the film's debut around the world continues, I'll be collecting all of the online coverage about it in this space. Every time I make a major update to the content below, I'll bump this post back to the top of the blog. As always, our readers are an important part of this conversation, so please don't hesitate to send us links and suggestions as to how we might improve our coverage of the film.

In this guide you will find:
  • Synopsis
  • Official Trailer
  • Where to See Pandora's Promise
  • Videos
  • Social Media 
  • Bios of Film's Principals
  • Reviews and Other Coverage
Synopsis (from the official web site):
Impact Partners and CNN Films present PANDORA’S PROMISE, the groundbreaking new film by Academy-Award®-nominated director Robert Stone. The atomic bomb and meltdowns like Fukushima have made nuclear power synonymous with global disaster. But what if we’ve got nuclear power wrong? An audience favorite at the Sundance Film Festival, PANDORA’S PROMISE asks whether the one technology we fear most could save our planet from a climate catastrophe, while providing the energy needed to lift billions of people in the developing world out of poverty. 
Official Trailer:

Exclusive Clip:

In this exclusive clip from Indiewire, learn how U.S. nuclear reactors are powered by fuel converted from former Russian nuclear warheads. The program is called Megatons to Megawatts.

So Where Can You See Pandora's Promise?

The film's initial theatrical run ended in June 2013. However, if you still want to see it, you can schedule a screening of your own using Tugg, a business that's a cross between Kickstarter and If you can convince 100 friends to pay for a screening up front, Tugg will help you get the film into a participating theater. See the Pandora's Promise Tugg page for more. CNN Films announced that it had acquired cable television broadcast rights to the film. It will air on November 7, 2013 at 9:00 p.m. U.S. EST.  For the latest dates and times for screenings, consult the Pandora's Promise website.

To download a copy of the film, you'll have to wait until December 3, 2013, when Pandora's Promise will be made available on iTunes. If and when you see the film, be sure to tweet about it and include the #PandorasPromise hash tag and the official handle, @PandorasPromise.


Q&A with Michael Moore at the Traverse City Film Festival:

Q&A at the IFC Center's Stranger Than Fiction Series (click here for additional interview):

Interview With Ondi Timoner of Bring Your Own Doc:

Robert Stone Interview with GenConnect:

BMI Sundance Composer/Director Roundtable:

Robert Stone and Mark Lynas Interviewed by Tara Hunnewell:

Mark Lynas Interview with Hedgerly Wood Trust:


Social Media:

Follow Pandora's Promise on Twitter and Facebook. Folks on Twitter seem to be using #PandorasPromise to organize conversations around the film. You can also subscribe to the film's YouTube Channel. If you've seen the film already, consider posting your review at the Internet Movie Database. In response to critiques of the film by anti-nuclear activists, Stone has posted his own FAQ on the film. Nick Touran, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the nuclear engineering program at the University of Michigan published a defense of the film. Here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we've created a category label for all of our coverage of the film.


Robert Stone, Director:
Robert Stone is a multi-award-winning, Oscar-nominated and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker. Born in England in 1958, he grew up in both Europe and America. After graduating with a degree in history from the University of Wisconsin/Madison, he moved to New York City in 1983 determined to pursue a career in filmmaking. He gained considerable recognition for his first film, “RADIO BIKINI” (1987) which premiered at Sundance and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. Multi-tasking as a producer, director, writer, editor and cameraman, he has over the last 25 years developed a steady international reputation with a range of unique and critically acclaimed feature-documentaries about American history, pop-culture, the mass media and the environment.
Michael Shellenberger, The Breakthrough Institute:
Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are leading global thinkers on energy, climate, security, human development, and politics. Their 2007 book Break Through was called "prescient" by Time and "the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring" by Wired. (An excerpt in The New Republic can be read here.) Their 2004 essay, "The Death of Environmentalism," was featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, sparked a national debate, and inspired a generation of young environmentalists ...
Stewart Brand, Editor, The Whole Earth Catalog and Co-Chair and President of The Long Now Foundation:
Stewart Brand is co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation and co-founder of Global Business Network. He created and edited the Whole Earth Catalog (National Book Award), and co-founded the Hackers Conference and The WELL. His books include The Clock of the Long Now; How Buildings Learn; and The Media Lab. His most recent book, titled Whole Earth Discipline, is published by Viking in the US and Atlantic in the UK. He graduated in Biology from Stanford and served as an Infantry officer.
Richard Rhodes, Author, The Making of the Atomic Bomb:
RICHARD RHODES is the author or editor of twenty-four books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award ...
Gwyneth Cravens, Author, The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy:
[H]as contributed articles and op-eds on science and other topics to Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She has published five novels. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, where she also worked as a fiction editor, and in Harper’s Magazine, where she was an associate editor. She grew up in New Mexico and now lives on eastern Long Island.
Mark Lynas, Environmentalist and Climate Change Activist (also writing a companion book to the film):
[A] frequent speaker around the world on climate change science and policy, focusing in particular on how carbon neutral targets can break the international logjam on climate mitigation, and how emissions reduction should be seen as an opportunity not a sacrifice. He is also a Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment.
Reviews and Other Coverage:

Tim Wu, Slate:
A good, politically charged documentary often seizes on what the audience already believes and throws fuel on the fire (see, e.g., the work of Michael Moore). A better such documentary tries to convince its audience that what it takes for granted is flat-out wrong. Pandora’s Promise, which premiered at Sundance, does just that. It makes the utterly convincing case that anyone who considers themselves an environmentalist or takes climate change seriously should favor more nuclear power.
Kate Briemann, Rolling Stone:
After sifting through the anti-nuclear choruses and the considerably smaller pro-nuclear groups in an attempt to find the truth about the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy, Stone found his answer with Michael Shellberger, the president and co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute: "We can have a world living modern lives without killing the climate."
John Anderson, Variety:
Can one be committed to the environment, and still be against nuclear power? Most issue docs are propaganda, and Robert Stone’s latest is a formidable sales pitch for nukes, yet the film’s points are well reasoned and urgent, and should attract viewers who have been drawn to the director’s earlier work(such as “Earth Days,” a history of the environmentalist movement).
Kyle Smith, New York Post:
New York City filmmaker Robert Stone, like the five experts who are the principal subjects of his documentary, began with the same impeccable environment-first attitude they did. Stone was nominated for an Oscar for his 1988 anti-nukes documentary “Radio Bikini,” about the dire consequences of American bomb testing on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. Now Stone, who will be debating Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on nuclear power at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY, tomorrow night at 7:30, sheepishly admits that he confused what nuclear bombs do with what nuclear energy does. So many of our ideas about fallout and cancer rates are tied to the former, not the latter.
David Biello, Scientific American:
What has cracked that catholic opposition for Brand and others is the invisible and invidious challenge of climate change. Simply put: nuclear power is one of the few technologies available today that can produce a lot of electricity, a lot of the time without a lot of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
James Conca, Forbes:
Is considering nuclear energy politically dangerous for environmentalists? Does it prevent normally-smart public servants from considering the best path forward on climate change? Indeed it is, and explains the swift and nasty response to Pandora’s Promise from anti-nuclear groups and the expected rants from professional fear-mongerers. They make some interesting fictional points, but provide no real information, using the word science like a mythological sword whose power they recognize but don’t understand.
Craig Bowron, Minneapolis Star Tribune:
As the director, Robert Stone, writes, “The almost theological adherence to a set of unquestionable beliefs [solar and wind power alone will save us] by most liberals and environmentalists has likely contributed as much or more to prolonging our addiction to fossil fuels as the equally appalling state of denial among many conservatives when it comes to climate change.”
John Gibbons, Irish Times:
What’s most likely to get us into trouble, Mark Twain observed, is not what we don’t know “it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so”. There are few subjects on which so many people, from politicians to rock stars, NGOs and environmentalists, passionately and confidently espouse views that are so completely at variance with observed reality as nuclear energy.
Maxine Segarnick, Poughkeepsie Journal:
The film strives to debunk several nuclear myths, such as the reportedly high radiation level and death toll caused by the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Environmental activists continue to use Chernobyl as an example of the potential danger of nuclear development. However, the film shows a radioactivity monitor at Chernobyl, as well as at other sites in America and Europe, and demonstrates that the level of radioactivity in Chernobyl in 2012 is nearly identical to that of Central Park in New York City.
Natalie Rooney, VoxTalk:
In a world where most people think nuclear plants are dangerous, Pandora’s Promise challenges viewers to see the benefits of nuclear energy. Despite this daunting challenge, the most admirable aspect of Pandora’s Promise is director Robert Stone’s commitment to presenting both sides of the nuclear energy argument.
Lenka Kollar, ANS Nuclear Cafe:
[T]he most compelling part of the documentary is illustrating how those who actually protested against nuclear power have come to now speak in favor of it. Admitting you were wrong takes some humility and can even cost you your professional career.
Joe Bendel, Libertas:
Stone made his name with the anti-nuclear doc Radio Bikini and would further burnish his green credentials with Earth Days. Very concerned about global warming, Stone could no longer accept the environmental movement’s unrealistic claims about solar and wind power. As his primary POV experts argue, any power plan with a significant wind or solar component will by necessity be heavily dependent on big, dirty fossil fuel plants as a back-up. The simple truth is that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow, but coal burns 24-7.
Stephanie Novak:
Pandora’s Promise has the immensely difficult task of changing people’s mindsets about nuclear energy—a task that became extraordinarily more difficult after the nuclear explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. Knowing that the film was in favor of nuclear energy, I was surprised that during the beginning of the documentary, arguments against nuclear energy were explained—I almost thought that I was wrong and that the film might be anti-nuclear energy. But in my opinion, this was one of the strongest points of the film. I thought that by clearly laying out reasons why people would be against nuclear energy ultimately made the film’s pro-nuclear stance stronger, as I understood arguments on both sides of the debate by the time the film finished.
Tiffany Ujiye:
Stone’s narrative includes personal stories from environmentalists and energy experts, including Stewart Brand, Gwyneth Craven, Mark Lynas, Richard Rhodes and Michael Shellenberger to speak about their journey in supporting nuclear energy. “This film is about hope,” Stone said, “but it can’t be done without nuclear power.”
Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit:
Sure, it seems pretty strange for a devout environmentalist to take a pro-nuclear energy stance; but after seeing Robert Stone’s documentary Pandora’s Promise, it seems like a perfectly logical switch.
Additional Reviews:

CLEAR-EYED AND BALANCED… director Robert Stone introduces a cast of unlikely defenders of this awesome source of energy: environmentalists."

- Ashutosh Jogalekar, Scientific American


- Nick Schrager, Village Voice


- Kimberly Chun, SF Bay Guardian

Stone’s worldly feature-length report is sure to raise eyebrows, but it paints a convincing picture.

- Kelly Vance, East Bay Express

INTELLIGENT AND RELATABLE… you may find yourself thoroughly surprised with an about-face view on the energy issue.

- Lori Huck,

COMPELLING… A debate worth revisiting, and only the most dogmatic will resist it.

- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

OPEN, EARNEST, UNABASHED… it makes a persuasive case… To any viewer with an open mind, ‘Pandora’s Promise’ may help encourage fresh thinking about the huge pros, as well as the better known cons, of this important, if controversial, source of clean energy.

- David Ropeik, Scientific American

PROVOCATIVE and IMPORTANT… ‘Pandora’s Promise’ is essential viewing.

- Andrew Revkin, The New York Times


- Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune


- Anthony Kaufman, Indiewire

ESSENTIAL VIEWING… A full dose of strong opinion – and also some much-needed facts."

- Anne Michaud, Newsday


jimwg said…
Good Report!

Re: "As we near the official premiere in New York on June 12, I'll be collecting all of the online coverage about the film in this space."

It would be highly informative if you can somehow report how the three major TV network outlets and local and independent affiliates here review this film. They had a pivotal smug and contemptible hand in toppling Shoreham and are busy at work knifing Indian Point, so don't anticipate anything outside them regarding Pandora's Promise as a nuke-stooge blip on a dying radar. I regret Pandora's Promise won't be TV broadcasted for the widest possible audience.

James Greenidge
Queens NY
gunter said…
Ted Turner and Robert Stone's infomercial... I just can't figure out who all they are trying to pitch it to? Certainly,taxpayers to get nuclear power back on the dole. Because this isn't playing in corporate board rooms in USA.
Ernest said…
Not playing in corporate board rooms in USA? I guess that explains why corporations in USA added 4.8 gigawatts of nuclear power from 2000 to 2012.

gunter's comment is typical of the anti-nukes who can't believe anyone would support nuclear just because it's the cleanest, most reliable baseload energy source that's also reasonably priced and safe. Anti-nukes believe anyone who supports nuclear is either a fool or getting a payoff. Pandora's Promise is just the ticket for them! I am excited about seeing the movie.
Williamson said…
If you're so concerned with the taxpayer (another red herring), are you spending your afternoons across town lobbying for dismantling the IRS? Besides, whose "dole" are you on?
Anonymous said…
On an energy-produced basis, the unreliables ("renewables") industry consumes a far greater percentage of taxpayer dollars than nuclear ever has or will. The unreliables are the only ones who have laws on the books requiring that their product be purchased, often at several times the going market rate for other sources. If people like Gunter are so concerned about taxpayer/ratepayer dollars, they should be going after the unreliables industry way before going after the nuclear industry.
Anonymous said…
Having seen the movie this afternoon with my wife, it is interesting to note several facts that were shown in the movie. For instance, there was a scene in which several wind farms with a rather large assortment of turbines, esp. in areas in which *wind* is abundant, remain motionless. The areas shown are in several Southern California locations, one which I recognize as the I-10 corridor towards Palm Springs.

Another scene involving a anti-nuclear activist frothing at the mouth about why nuclear is bad, then only to be thrown several questions by the film's producer, to show signs of irritability and frustration, while stating that she didn't have the answer to the question.

Although there are several potential dangers associated with anything "nuclear", the film appears to show people's misconception that nuclear power can mean nuclear weaponry. What is pointed out towards the end of the film, is the acquisition of former-Soviet nuclear warheads that re-enriched, are now powering many of America's nuclear power plants. Don't believe me? Look here:

One aspect that my wife pointed out, which I think is a very good point, is that people believe what people want to believe, regardless of how each others side argues the point: you are either staunchly pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear, and no argument from either side can cause either side to budge.

The one aspect I liked about the film is demonstrating how little radioactivity exists in (supposedly) some of the more "hottest" locations, and what should appear to be "normal" locations, are actually quite "hot" (black sands in a Southern American beach). The handheld Geiger counter used in the film is a Terra-P MKS-05 (

It isn't easy to convince people that nuclear power is safe; and as one advocate indicated, when nuclear power fails, it fails very badly. However, if compared against the other power generation methods, nuclear is (by far) one of the cleanest, and probably one of the more safest. Anyone who says that coal isn't bad needs to take a look at the TVA Kingston coal ash disaster (, as coal ash is, quite literally, "radioactive".

Another item mentioned within the film is the mention about cancer, in that radioactivity makes cancer; once again, my wife pointed out in a question: "Doesn't radiation kill cancer?" Honestly, it is all again a matter of perspective, and which side of the fence you're on.

Lastly, I would like to mention about a promotion of "solar not nuclear" campaign, in which the largest supporter is the Oil Heating Institute (
Dr. John Miller said…
Read my review of "Pandora' Promise" in the New York Times:

I'm a former nuclear submarine engineering officer on a Navy submarine. I give strong evidence that the movie is false, that the five environmentalists who decided to switch to supporting nuclear power don't know what they're talking about.

Dr. John Miller
@Nuclear Reporter
Anonymous said…
Dr. Miller, looks like your review was deconstructed by Scientific American.
Atomikrabbit said…

Looks like PhD Nuclear Engineer at Bill Gate's TerraPower strongly disagrees with you:
Atomikrabbit said…
For an enlightening discussion of John Miller's standing among fellow submariners, and his claims of nuclear expertise, see

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