Many people are terrified of airplanes. However, it is rare to find that someone is afraid of getting into a car. If one looks at the accident data for each of the means of transport, one realizes that the fear of flights is unfounded. The chance of dying on a plane is one in 9,737. Of every ten million passengers, 3.3 die each year according to data from El Economista. On the other hand, of those who travel by car, out of every ten million, 12,410 people die, an infinitely greater number. Fear acts as a lever, but it is subjective.
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The example of cars is used by Oliver Stone in his documentary Nuclear, presented at the Venice Film Festival, to justify its defense of nuclear energy. The chances of a nuclear accident are slim, and if you put together the deaths caused by them in the history of mankind, they are much less than those caused by coal and gas. Stone has arrived in Venice to bring his new provocation, a defense of a questionable type of energy that he defends as the best way to combat climate change.
A work based on the book a bright future, by Joshua Goldstein, who accompanied him to the Venice Film Festival. For both, climate change is the main challenge facing the world. In 30 years, CO2 emissions must have been drastically reduced to save the planet, but at the rate we are going it will be impossible. Renewables are the utopian and idealistic best solution. They are not opposed to them, on the contrary, but they believe that it is not enough. They bet on the nuclear as an alternative. His argument: it is much cleaner than coal and gas and its chances of catastrophe are much lower than people think.
One of the fundamental theses of the documentary is that people have confused nuclear weapons with nuclear energy. According to Stone, the atomic bomb did a lot of damage, and also the fictions that arose around it. Science fiction and catastrophe movies turned everything that had the word ‘nuclear’ into the enemy, a position that multiplied during the cold war and the fear of a confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union that would lead to the end of the world.
For Stone, there is nothing innocent about the proliferation of anti-nuclear fiction that sparked a movement opposing them just at the time when the US was leading the effort to generate electricity from this new source. It was the big oil companies, known as the Seven Sisters, that launched a lobbying campaign to sow fear of an energy that could spell the end of their business. The documentary shows how these companies have financed renewable energies for decades and also institutions that oppose nuclear power. “We have been deceived,” Stone said bluntly at the press conference about a campaign that caused the closure of plants around the world and before the climate crisis became the focus of the discussion and changed everything.
“Climate change has brutally forced us to take a new look at the ways we generate energy as a global community,” says Oliver Stone, who assures that “nuclear energy is, in fact, hundreds of times safer than fossil fuels and accidents are extremely rare.” He believes it is the only way to “lift billions of people out of poverty while rapidly reducing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane and, in many countries, coal.” It is, for the director, a unique opinion that can change the destiny of humanity to take it “from poverty to prosperity.”
In a documentary about nuclear energy, it was inevitable to talk about the Chernobyl accident, the most serious in history and, for the authors of the film, an event that was used to create the current state of fear. For Stone and Goldberg, that tragedy cannot be extrapolated, and was due to reactors in poor condition and the delay in reacting. To compare and explain that there is no need to fear a new nuclear accident, the film gives the example of the Three Miles Island plant in the USA, where the same thing happened in 1979 as in Chernobyl: human errors that caused an accident. However, there were no fatalities and the radioactivity that was released from the event was minimal.
Call me naive, but if cooperation after the Cold War was essential, I think that if we are smart and combine our efforts, the whole world would be better
— Film director
They also believe that the example of Fukushima shows that there is no need to fear nuclear weapons, since it was a natural event that led to the accident and its consequences were not, according to the creators of the documentary, especially serious. “Radiation was contained in Fukushima”, Goldstein assured the press from Venice, where he also presented one of his most controversial arguments, that the radiation that one can receive from a small leak is not greater than what one has when walking through a mountain by the radiations present in the day to day. “If the radiation from Fukushima caused any damage, it was so small that it is literally impossible to measure. You can speculate about the cancer that it has caused, but people think that thousands of people died and that is not true. I think there was sensationalism to stir up people’s fear again. There are accidents in other industries and nothing was ever done about it,” he opined before Stone lashed out at the popular HBO series.
Director of jfk He is optimistic when he sees that countries like Japan, Korea, Finland or France are building and improving reactors, many of them smaller and cheaper. He pointed out that in the US alone there are 50 new startup dedicated to it and opted for cooperation between the US and Russia to bet on nuclear energy: “Call me naive, but if cooperation after the Cold War was essential for the space race and from the 80s until now, I think that if we are smart and we combine our efforts the whole world would be better. Hate comes and goes, and the best thing that can happen to us is that we both collaborate.”