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

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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.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote Richard George Greenpeace

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."


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

Start Quote

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

End Quote David Phillips Royal Society of Chemistry

"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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  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    132 JF

    I agree, but I hope the science is better than the chemistry Prof's attempt at psychoanalysing a generation of movie-goers.

    If the Prof feels so strongly about this then perhaps he should stick to chemistry and the industry should employ better PR people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Pretty sure that things like Iran's nuclear programme cause way more negative publicity than Bond

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    The Chernobyl disaster was caused by people doing things they shouldn't have been with the reactor. Nowadays, H&S means there will be much tighter controls on what they can/can't do.

    As someone else says, look at France, they have predominantly nuclear power being used which has been the case for 5 decades. But have there been any disasters in that time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    The facts, not the conspiracy theories:

    Confirmed deaths to date due to radiation:

    Three Mile Island - None
    Chernobyl - Fewer than 50
    Fukushima - None

    Now research climate change and the potential global devastation and disruption. Regardless of whether you agree that it is man-made, we must control greenhouse gas emissions globally. As of now that means switching from fossil fuel to nuclear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.


    I'm not going to denounce anything. However it is also true that more than 100 people suffered acute radiation poisoning while dealing with the disaster itself and the relocation of residents has helped limit radiation issues in general. Check out the background radiation even now in the ghost city of Pripyat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Nuclear is only 'unsafe' because the old designs are still functioning and none of the new Gen 4 reactors, capable of passive shutdowns, are ever built to replace the current ones. Decommisioning a nuclear reactor is expensive and no one want to replace something still functioning.
    As someone said many times before, coal burning is more radioactive and far more dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Fewer people died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki than in conventionally bombed Dresden, and they are now a thriving city again.
    3 Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima caused far fewer deaths than coal mining causes globally in a single year. Sure, nuclear can be dangerous, but it is much less dangerous than many widely used alternatives. Our fear of nuclear is disproportionate, irrational and harmful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Windscale...ahem...Chernobyl...erm...Fukushima. James Bond? Give us a break Mr. Phillips.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Prof David Phillips watches too many Bond films and not enough of current events.
    Ask people in the risk radious of Chernobyl or Fukushima what they think of whether atomic energy should have a "remorselessly grim" reputation.
    Let's say no to stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Nuclear power stations give off less radiation than coal burning ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I am pro-nuclear, mostly because I see little other choice, but I think its events like 3 mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima that have tainted the image of nuclear, not 007 - who takes Bond films THAT seriously!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    #116 Half life means a 50/50 chance of an atom of the material emitting a radioactive particle within that time. Something with a half life of 25,000 years is virtually inert. If you want something thats really dangerous try Iodine 131 (released by chernobyl). That has a half life of 8 days which means it emits all its potential radiation into you in a few weeks if you consume it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I would say that the public being lied to by the Government backed scientific community was far more damaging for the nuclear industry.

    I can still remember all the global warming style rhetoric they spoon fed us

    "There's more chance of a jumbo jet crashing into Wembly on cup final day than a nuclear accident"

    3 mile island- boom
    Chernobyl- boom
    Fukushima- boom

    James Bond is only pretend!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I think the tragic year long saga of Fukushima combined with decades of cover ups, gargantuan budget overruns and a lack of a long term plan for the disposal of material that stays deadly for longer than the human race has had writing, may have helped too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Nuclear reactors are becoming safer, more efficient and cheaper all the time, And the UK is a great place to put them, we don't live on any fault lines, no volcanoes, temperate weather, we don't even have any animals that can kill us. Nuclear is the only viable alternative to our current energy sources. Liquid thorium flouride reactors are the way forward.1tonne of thorium is equal to 3.5m of coal

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    ....And before the Thorium trolls come & tell us how it can magically solve all of our problems, I'll direct you to the NNL (National Nuclear Laboratories, hardly a bastion of anti-nuclear sentiment!), as even they pour cold water on the idea.

    MIT have a similar report doing the rounds

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Really? How silly of me to believe that the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII and the destruction of Bikini atoll by H-bomb was to blame for the bad image of nuclear power generation, not mentioning Three Mile Island and Chernobyl...

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Nuclear power in and of itself, is a clean way to produce power, that is not under dispute, coal and oil create pollution as they are being burnt. However, no-one is talking about the pollution that nuclear power IS creating - i.e. Nuclear waste... That is here to stay and will become "safe" in 10,000 years (give or take a millenium). Accidents do happen, storage of the waste can be compromised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    @ Cwilso57
    However the use of fossil fuels have devastated whole swathes of countryside and coastline, killed hundreds (thousands?) of people, killed millions of fish seabirds etc and threaten the very life of the planet via climate change.
    Just sayin'

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    #115: Cheryl

    What nonsense you speak Ms Cheryl.

    Can you back any of that up with "science" that isn't copied and pasted from the Green Party website?

    Look at independent data, not just what you want to read.


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