“Nuclear Now”, on Paris Première: when Oliver Stone takes France as an example

Will nuclear power help save the world? Filmmaker Oliver Stone no longer doubts it since reading A Bright Future, by Joshua S

“Nuclear Now”, on Paris Première: when Oliver Stone takes France as an example

Will nuclear power help save the world? Filmmaker Oliver Stone no longer doubts it since reading A Bright Future, by Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist (PublicAffairs, 2019, untranslated). The book draws on the energy choices of European countries, including France, to demonstrate that nuclear energy is an essential element in the fight against global warming. “We no longer have time to be afraid,” believes the filmmaker with three Oscars: best adapted screenplay for Midnight Express, by Alan Parker (1978), best director for Platoon (1986) and for Born on the 4th of July ( 1990). His notoriety also opened doors for him, particularly in Russia, during the two years of investigation necessary to carry out this long advocacy for nuclear energy.

Imperiousness justifies everything in Oliver Stone's eyes: oppressive music, shocking shots. Always with the same red thread. Whether denouncing the horrors of war, a conspiracy (JFK, 1992) or expressing his near-fascination for Fidel Castro (Comandante, 2003) or Vladimir Putin (Conversations with Mr. Putin, 2017), he continues to settle scores with his country.

Lobbying of the “7 sisters”

Also this film is aimed at the general American public. Which paradoxically is part of its appeal, particularly in the first, historical part. Drawing on the great figures of science, from Pierre and Marie Curie to Stephen Hawking, this sometimes little-known summary relates the global development of civil nuclear power through the prism of the United States: first Soviet power plant in 1954, American in 1958, French in 1964 (in Chinon in Indre-et-Loire)…

France is cited as an example several times, but also Sweden, Germany, Japan, the USSR and then Russia. While subjective, the commentary states that uranium U92 is “a natural energy source” and uses the term “clean energy”. This flashback also allows the director to recall his convergence of opinion with Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, who publicly expressed their support for nuclear energy.

After the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – described here as “original sin” – revealed to the world the horror of these weapons and generated fear and repulsion among the populations – excessive, according to Oliver Stone –, the disasters of Three Mile Island (1979 ), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) will maintain the general public's aversion to nuclear energy. Oliver Stone then sharply denounces the manipulation of opinion, through the lobbying of the “7 sisters”, the oil majors (Exxon, Shell, Gulf, BP, Chevron, Mobil and Texaco); the viewer regrets that the human and environmental toll of the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents are minimized. In any case, “the pessimism of public opinion therefore reached a critical point.” Japan closes its power plants.

Regrettable subjectivity

The second half of the film will work to redress the situation. First, by taking an interesting, because globalized, inventory of fossil fuels and the energy policies of India, Russia and China. Oliver Stone targets outsourcing: “California prides itself on having a clean state, but it’s China that burns its coal.” He insists: “With China and the United States accounting for half of global carbon emissions, the key to decarbonization lies with these two countries. »

The last part, on scientific advances in civil nuclear power, on the other hand, disappoints. The filmmaker admits to knowing nothing about it, his successive enthusiasm for microreactors or for nuclear fusion (at the research stage) is tiring. Instead, while the decarbonization of the global economy requires us to reduce our consumption and develop wind, hydraulic and solar energy, sobriety is not mentioned once. And renewable energies are only treated by emphasizing their limits.

A regrettable subjectivity in view of the issue. Indeed, between the increasingly visible effects of climate change and the cutting of Russian gas pipelines after the invasion of Ukraine, "nuclear is regaining ground in the world, among political leaders and in public opinion", we read in Le Monde. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not say otherwise, classifying the atom among the possible solutions to decarbonize the planet. We no longer have time to argue.