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Atomic Hope review – a powerful case for pressing the nuclear power button | Movies

Here is a film that returns us to a thorny revisionist subject which I haven’t seen aired in documentary form since the film Pandora’s Promise in 2013 – which isn’t mentioned here, though a poster for it is visible in one shot. For many environmentalists, the last realistic hope we have to avert climate disaster is the great unthinkable, the great unmentionable: stop worrying and learn to love nuclear energy, because nuclear is a colossally efficient and very clean energy source.

Like Pandora’s Promise, Atomic Hope revisits the case studies of Chornobyl and Fukushima and argues that, although clearly catastrophic, a mythology of horror has grown up around these events that has stymied all debate and shut down thought. The film doesn’t say so, but another way the eco-nuclear movement became tainted was perhaps a speech by Margaret Thatcher to the UN general assembly which made the case in 1989, partly to undermine the coal industry as a trade union powerbase.

At any rate, here again is the argument: nuclear energy provides the clean, climate-friendly energy we need. Renewables such as wind and solar are important, but progress on them is desperately slow and time is running out. The risks of nuclear are real, but they are misunderstood and uncontextualised, safety measures have evolved and risk must in any case now be considered in the light of clear and present danger of the global harm from fossil fuels.

But none of this is easy. Generations have been brought up on the idea that nuclear equals apocalypse. Convincing them of the opposite is a challenge. Guardian readers will know that George Monbiot has ventilated ideas on this issue. The inevitable question is: what does Greta think? This film was apparently made too late to include Thunberg’s startling intervention in October 2022, when she claimed the German government was wrong to close down nuclear plants in favour of coal. Anything that stimulates discussion of this issue is to be welcomed.

Atomic Hope is released on 17 February in cinemas.

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