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.

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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.

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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 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 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 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 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 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


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