On Thursday, September 24, the Grand County Library and Utah Film Society will be showing the film, “Pandora’s Promise,” at Star Hall, starting at 7 p.m. The film is a one-sided and factually challenged look at nuclear power as an answer to climate change. The film’s premise is that nuclear power will provide clean energy and help developing countries end poverty. This claim is presented in interviews with several former opponents of nuclear power who have had a change of heart, and with some nuclear scientists.
There were no interviews with citizens, environmentalists, legal experts, or scientists who are currently involved with the many serious and complex issues related to the production of nuclear power in the U.S.
The film neglects to discuss the environmental impacts of the whole nuclear fuel chain, from uranium mining and milling to the disposal and long-term care of low- and high-level nuclear waste. As we know here in southeast Utah, uranium mining and milling is not carbon-free and impacts our land, air, water and public health. There are hundreds of abandoned uranium mines in Utah and nearby states that have yet to be remediated. Hundreds of uranium mine and mill workers died or continue to suffer severe health impacts from the production of uranium.
The film’s claim that nuclear is cheaper than energy from clean, renewable sources is completely false. Nuclear reactors cost billions of dollars to construct, taking 10 years or longer to license and bring online. Reactors under construction in the U.S. have construction delays and serious cost overruns, which are passed onto the ratepayers. The cost of reactors keeps going up and the cost of renewables keeps going down.
The film minimizes the question of what to do with high-level nuclear waste. For decades, that problem has been pushed back for future generations to deal with. The type of spent fuel casket that the proposed Yucca Mountain disposal site was designed for is no longer being developed. There is no approved casket for the storage of high-burn up fuel — the fuel used at most reactors today. The government and industry has no long-term solution for high-level nuclear waste, except for indefinite storage at reactor sites. If Yucca Mountain were approved, much of the spent fuel would be transported through Utah, including Grand County.
The proposed reactor near Green River is an example the realities of nuclear power development. The Blue Castle Project would require about 87 million gallons of water per day in a time of drought and reduced runoff. It would impact the recovery program for threatened and endangered fish species in the Green River. Thus far, the proponent of the reactor, Blue Castle Holdings, has only raised $19 million. It will take from $50 to $100 million to obtain an Early Site Permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many millions more to obtain a construction and operation license. It will take billions to construct the reactor. Thus far, no utility has joined this project, so there is no place for the electricity to go and no outside funding.
The very reasons not to support nuclear power are ignored by the film. The risks, economic realities, waste disposal problems, regulatory issues, and environmental and health impacts from the complete nuclear fuel chain are not addressed in “Pandora’s Promise.” Anyone who is interested is these issues should continue to ask questions and seek answers outside industry propaganda.