Education & Family

James Bond villains blamed for nuclear's bad image

Sean Connery, Ursula Andress
The evil Dr No was foiled by James Bond: Sean Connery and Ursula Andress in the 1962 movie

The evil villains in James Bond movies are being blamed for casting a long-lasting shadow over the image of nuclear power, says the president of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Prof David Phillips says that Dr No, with his personal nuclear reactor, helped to create a "remorselessly grim" reputation for atomic energy.

Prof Phillips was speaking ahead of the 50th anniversary of the movie.

The chemistry organisation says it wants a "renaissance" in nuclear power.

Prof Phillips says the popularity of the Dr No movie from 1962 created an enduringly negative image of nuclear power - as something dangerous that could be wielded by megalomaniacs with aspirations to world domination.

Unfair image

The villain of the movie, planning mass destruction from his secret Caribbean hideout, eventually dies in the cooling pool of his nuclear reactor, having been foiled by James Bond, played by Sean Connery.

Against a background of the cold war and a nuclear arms race, the movie showed a world of intelligence agencies, glamorous spies, secretive assassins and underground laboratories.

But the Royal Society of Chemistry, which promotes the work of chemical sciences, says that it also meant that millions of people who saw the film saw nuclear technology being presented as a "barely-controllable force for evil".

Later Bond villains, as part of their cat-stroking, laser-pointing, world-destroying repertoire, also had nuclear ambitions.

When there are worries about nuclear safety - such as following the tsunami in Japan - the Royal Society of Chemistry fears that the public reaction is still shaped by such emotive, negative associations.

As such, Prof Phillips says that when nuclear power is discussed "it is not at all surprising that the public at home and abroad are sceptical".

"But the RSC asserts that nuclear power has to be part of the future national energy mix, in which it plays a major role, complemented by renewable sources. Fossil fuels have to be eradicated for people to live in a healthy environment."

"Let's say yes to nuclear and no to Dr No's nonsense."

'Unsafe'

This message was not accepted by the Green Party - which argued that Bond movies reflected concerns rather than created them.

"Although James Bond is fiction, the truth is that nuclear power is dangerous, dirty and unsafe," said spokesperson, Penny Kemp.

"It is improbable to think that people's perceptions have been influenced solely by The World is Not Enough, but this film came after the Chernobyl disaster so the film was merely picking up on a real fear people have of nuclear power. And rightly so."

Richard George of Greenpeace said: "A handful of Bond films haven't tarnished the nuclear industry's reputation. They've managed to do that all by themselves.

"I don't think they've got a top secret fake volcanic island though. But if they did, it would probably be cheaper to build than a nuclear power station."

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