As our worldwide population continues to grow—we’re expected to hit 9 billion by 2040—our need and reliance on natural resources grow exponentially. Oil and coal reserves, despite being vast, are ultimately finite, and wind and solar simply aren’t efficient enough to sustain our ever-growing need for electrical power. So, two viable alternatives are hydro and nuclear power plants, and the latter is the main focal point of Oliver Stone’s new documentary titled Nuclear Now.
Shaping up to be equivalent to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Stone’s Nuclear Now takes a fundamentally different approach to answer the question of what the future holds by saying that nuclear power might be the key. While many still can’t seem to disassociate the word “nuclear” from the word “nuke,” and unfortunate events such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl do not help this public perception, Nuclear Now seeks to change that by offering an alternative, science-based view into humanity’s nuclear future.
In his latest documentary, which premiered at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival, Stone argues that nuclear power is by far the soundest replacement for fossil fuels, thereby helping fight climate change. However, the movie also makes the vital case that nuclear power has been unjustly demonized by anti-nuclear movements—which it has, and we’ll touch upon that in a minute—and that our need for low-emission power supplies is too urgent to ignore the advantages nuclear power has to offer.
Stone’s documentary makes a compelling argument that nuclear power has been demonized, first by the less-educated green activists, then by the attention-seeking media, and then further by oil companies. The perfect example of this type of demonizing of technology happened in the late 19th and early 20th century with the introduction of electrical energy. What we now take for granted and basically depend upon was portrayed by the early media as a very dangerous technology that has unknown effects and many potential dangers.
Newspapers even propagated stories that walking under an electrical lamp post posed a danger, as the electricity could jump out of the light bulb and electrocute nearby people. Admittedly, some people tried changing the light bulb with wet hands, adding more credence to this urban legend. The same thing happened with nuclear energy. Following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which effectively proved that nuclear power could be used as a “destroyer of worlds,” environmental activists associated nuclear power with nuclear weapons, pigeonholing everything related to nuclear as inherently bad.
In fact, the term “nuke-ular” was cleverly coined to associate the two, implying that the possibility of being nuked or exposed to high levels of damaging radiation is inherent in this technology. Accidents such as Chernobyl—which was a result of large-scale, systemic human error—further fueled the public’s distrust of nuclear power. But Stone’s Nuclear Now casts light on several other factors that further contributed to the public fear—the biggest of which is Big Oil, also known as the Seven Sisters.
Major oil companies piggybacked on the environmental activist’s propaganda against nuclear energy, adding that even the lowest levels of radiation are harmful to humans and may lead to any number of diseases and even death. This is, of course, false, as Stone’s Nuclear Now points out. We actually evolved to handle low levels of radiation exceptionally well, considering that we’re riding on a cosmic rock that’s constantly bombarded by various types of cosmic radiation.
Modern media and entertainment releases such as Fallout (a video game series) or Book of Eli—starring Denzel Washington—often depict the world in which human civilization descends to its lowest as the result of a nuclear catastrophe. Mankind’s fear of the things we don’t understand is a natural survival tool, and not too many people know the inner workings of nuclear chemistry and nuclear physics. And both the Seven Sisters and the anti-nuclear movement have used that lack of knowledge to further spread fear of us having to fight over scraps if we go nuclear.
The anti-nuclear movement, while well-intentioned, is wrong. By associating nuclear energy with nuclear disasters, which anyone reasonable would fight against, they’re rejecting the only form of currently accessible power generation that’s more environmentally friendly than coal. In fact, if we were to replace all coal-fired power plants with nuclear ones, we could reduce carbon emissions by around 90%. Of course, these are rough estimates, and real numbers are subject to variations associated with specific regions and circumstances.
But Big Oil’s push against nuclear is far more sinister, as the spread of misinformation has only one goal: eliminating the only power source that could effectively compete with fossil fuels for the sake of profit. Anti-nuclear environmentalist fighting against nuclear-oriented corporations are pawns in public manipulation—since everyone loves a good-natured underdog—that sway the public opinion to align with the interests of the companies that are the biggest contributors to climate change—the Seven Sisters.
Renewable energy sources are, unfortunately, a daydreamer’s alternative, as they’re unreliable. This is best seen from an example involving Germany, which promised to forsake coal-fired and nuclear power in favor of renewables, and even publicly called out other countries—from world powers to third-world countries—for not doing the same. The most hypocritical moment was when the country imported more than 40 million tons of coal for electricity and heat generation and fired up its coal-fired plants.
And this is the main point of Stone’s Nuclear Now. Virtue-signaling by various world powers, paired with the rising middle-class culture of reducing one’s carbon footprint by employing electric cars and renewables, just offsets the problem instead of offering a viable and reasonable solution. Don’t get us wrong; going electric and recycling helps immensely. But Stone argues, and anyone sensible would agree, that it simply isn’t enough. We need to put our fears behind us and make a more significant change.
Nuclear Now has a worldwide premiere on April 28, 2023, in select US theaters and theaters in Belgium, Canada, and Denmark. It really makes a strong, sober, and, above everything else, scientific case for nuclear power, showing a future that’s nothing like the wastelands and scavenging we all seen in Fallout or Book of Eli. If presented with the opportunity to watch this film, we highly recommend it.