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 286.

    Does he really think this or is it to get us debating nuclear?

    I hope it's the second one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    The Fukushima reactor was a 40 year old design, not capable of passive convective cooling as modern designs are, and was hit by a mega earthquake and Tsunami. I can't believe the Europeans are now refusing to build much needed non carbon emitting sites due to this. The chance of a Tsunami in Bavaria is somewhat less than in Japan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    If filmgoers can't tell the difference between fact and fiction maybe we should ban films altogether. On the other hand, there have been a lot more films with a much greater impact than Dr No, such as Spielberg's, which have presented terrifying images of destruction and violence, but have simply been accepted as entertainment. Perhaps "Newsreels" should be introduced at cinemas to promote reality

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Who knows... but a supply of non-horse, non-slave, non-hamster generator energy is the No1 most important factor that separates us from the dark ages.

    Nuclear, Oil, gas , whatever ... to avoid being held to ransom for fuel by a foreign nation we need an energy source that comes from the UK.

    Some would argue that we should quintuple the research funding for Nuclear Fusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    #278 Hiroshima & Nagasaki between them killed about 200,000 so even if you're being so crassly stupid as to confuse nuclear power & nuclear weapons it STILL doesn't come to millions. Why not count all skin cancer deaths (mostly induced by UV) as well?

    Of course the positive benefits of radiation (like smoke detectors or radiotherapy for cancer) don't get a look in either do they? Just bombs

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    It's not so much Bond as the apparently inability of humans to design & implement something of this nature without major screwups. Fukushima. Chernobyl. Three Mile Island. For some technology & science, humans don't presently posses the ability to "keep things safe," apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    @272 "We wouldn't want wind turbines here; if one fell, we might have one of those nasty wind spills."

    We'd need about 375 square miles set up with about 10,000 wind turbines to replace one nuclear power station. There could well be a few accidents building and operating that lot!


  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Risk is often mischaracterised as just being a function of probablity.

    The correct definition of risk should incude a figure for probability as well as a figure criticality. For nuclear energy the risk probability is quite low however the ciriticality is quite high. Overall though nuclear (fission) is a good intermediate solution until nuclear 'cold' fusion becomes commercially viable

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Hey 275 - how about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    As explained in a very intersting BBC programme recently about the nuclear debate it was shown that there have been very few actual deaths caused by nuclear "disasters" and the actual risk of real damage and disaters is extremely low. It was shown that in it's latest form the nuclear industry is indeed very safe and much cleaner than other forms of power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Professor David Phillips must be one of the most arrogant and condescending scientists I've ever heard in my life. It's true there are many people in the UK who don't have any interest in, or knowledge of science, and may be misled by fiction depicted in various media. But the majority of people who comment on nuclear issues DO know about science, and something about nuclear physics. Apologise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    #272 ANOTHER One claiming 'millions killed or displaced'. Prove it. The evidence says 51. Where are your millions hiding?

    Incidentally we don't use Sellafield etc to make plutonium for bombs anymore. We've got 100 tons of the stuff stockpiled. You need about 8kgs for a bomb. We simply recycle the 160 Trident warheads every few years. We've never used one so we still have all the 1960's Pu.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    @269 presario "ALARP does apply to both."

    Good we're on the same page then. We only differ in that while I would love to see all our energy needs supplied by wind, wave, solar and geothermal, I can't see a practical way forward to replacing our fossil fuel station capacity, given the urgency to cut gas emissions, without switching to nuclear while we're developing the alternatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    #267 I don't even understand that post.... make a claim, back it up with evidence. Weird claims of 'corruption' have little to do with the actual proven health consequences of nuclear power. I can quote Nature & the British Journal of Cancer (plus funnily enough the fact that I absorbed a lot of Chernobyl fallout as a kid and took part in a clinical study as a result). What have you got?

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    A 50 year old movie clearly has more influence than two bombs and two disasters that have killed or displaced millions. Add thousands of tons of waste that will never go away, and nuclear is not the clear option. It shouldn't be an option, but it provides fuel for bombs, so governments fund it. We wouldn't want wind turbines here; if one fell, we might have one of those nasty wind spills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    @261 "Nuclear is not the way forward. Any energy source that requires more energy to create than it gives back is a waste of resources."

    I think you're confusing commercially-viable fission reactors with the current state of research into fusion.

    Fission power stations are expensive, but they do have a net energy benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    nuclear power is not the way forward cost of chernoby fukushima ?? ££££
    keep coal gas shut down in time all nuclear power stations

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    262.Graham Brand
    "You're missing my point. Continued use of fossil fuels also produces a risk of unacceptable consequences. If you want to defer to ALARP then it should apply to both industries"
    ALARP does apply to both. Nuclear is not the only alternative- Severn Barrage, wave energy, solar from plants based in Sahara etc.
    HSE warns it is criminal to manage risk above "no way line".

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    The reputation of the nuclear industry is influenced by the behaviour of the nuclear industry.

    We need nuclear power but with less secrecy from the industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    All factors

    A shame, but we do NEED to 'factor-in' corruption from democratic purpose

    We KNOW how corruption works, the Fear of Harm & the Greed for Security that - subtly or not - so rule our lives

    US academics & toxic debt cover-ups

    Credibility demands acknowledgement of risk from webs-of-error, always - and from today's webs-of-corruption

    Think more of 'selection' of 'facts'


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