Venice 2022: Oliver Stone's Persuasive & Educational 'Nuclear' Doc
by Alex Billington
September 11, 2022
The most important question of our times is: how do we solve climate change? It's a tough one to answer. How do we stop destroying our planet, how do we transition to better / safer energy without using fossil fuels anymore? Can society actually transition smoothly? What can we do as an individual to help? Everyone seems to be thinking about this and one person who has been thinking about it quite intently is filmmaker Oliver Stone. Stone has stepped back from making narrative features, but is still making documentaries as he gets older. His latest doc film is called Nuclear, and it just premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival as an important climate change feature at the end of the fest. Half of the film is about global warming and how we let this happen and what's going on with the world. The other half offers a viable answer: nuclear power. It's as persuasive as any film can be - nuclear power truly IS the best immediate solution for climate change mitigation and ending fossil fuel use. If you aren't yet convinced, just watch this film when it's out.
Oliver Stone's Nuclear is an informative & educational documentary feature film about the truth regarding nuclear power and how it's not actually something to fear. It is, also, the solution we need now in order to stop using fossil fuels (a major factor in the destruction of our planet / human health across the world) and hopefully save Earth before it's too late. Don't worry, this isn't a PBS film. Nuclear is a seriously well-made, entertaining, engaging film. All of the research is verifiable and confirmed and accurate. Stone speaks to the viewers directly in a matter-of-fact way not only through voiceover, but he also appears occasionally as the film's "director" who is interviewing & meeting with various people. He talks with activists, climate change scientists, nuclear engineers, historians, and many others who, as we like to say, know their shit – and all of them will tell you nuclear power is safe and clean and abundant and the best available solution. Most of us don't think of nuclear power when it comes to climate change, and that is addressed in this film, but Stone wants to change that conversation. Now. While we still can make a difference. So let's start talking about it.
The are two MAJOR concerns that most people have regarding nuclear power / atomic energy (they're the same thing). The first is safety and security. The film reminds us, referencing a forgotten JFK speech, that nuclear power and nuclear weapons are different and should not be conflated. The Cold War scare got to our heads. The film also spends time looking at the three worst nuclear power accidents - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Stone then examines why these were either human error-caused accidents or extremely unlikely events, combined with the fact that the actual harm caused by these incidents is quite minimal compared to the harm being caused by fossil fuels. The best part of Nuclear is the way Stone very clearly, very apolitically shows how humanity has been duped and tricked into believing nuclear power is bad and scary. Resulting in many nations shutting down and decommissioning nuclear power plants that were working just fine for decades without a single safety issue. Ugh. Why did we do this, why did we make this grave mistake right we really need nuclear power? Time to learn our lesson about how wrong we were…
The second common concern with nuclear power is: why is it a more worthwhile, viable solution than other renewable energy solutions like wind and solar and hydro? Once again, Stone's film does clearly address this and focuses on the truth that all of these renewable energy solutions can work together in harmony. It's not saying that we should throw out the others. However, based on actual mathematical calculations and energy usage models, nuclear power is the only immediate solution available that can completely replace the fossil fuel power grids at scale around the world. At this point in our history, humans use a TON of electricity and wind / solar / hydro just can't produce that much power right now (not to mention it's often dependent on weather and climate stability). Almost every "but wait, what about this?! or what about that?!" thought you may have about nuclear energy is address and debunked in a very nice, unarrogant way. My only complaint is about how Stone gets too happy-go-lucky optimistic at the end with his speech about "we can do this, let's go out and solve this together, friends!" Yes he needs to end on a positive note, but it's a bit smarmy to hear.
There's also a fun "wait, what?!" moment in the film where Stone, right after bringing in and interviewing all these top level scientists and engineers, suddenly drops in a TikTok influencer who is "pro-nuclear power." Her name is Isabelle Boemeke and she is quite well known with certain crowds. It's just amusing to see Stone pull a "we need to connect with the kids" move in the middle of this doc. She's actually smart and has something to say, which is a relief, as she's not just there solely for Stone to proclaim, "hey kids, we want to reach you, too." Above all, it seems that including her is his reminder that solving climate change is really important for the next generations because they will be the ones suffering the most when it all gets much worse over the next decades. And she's a powerful force for changing people's minds. If this documentary won't change your mind, maybe she will?? We can only hope. Most importantly, Oliver Stone has a done a fine job creating a film that addresses one of the greatest crises humanity has ever faced – by optimistically telling us that the solution is right there, waiting for us to re-adopt and re-implement. So let's get to work.