The Portrayal of Nuclear Power in Media

Joey Alfieri
March 15, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Doel Nuclear Power Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Fig. 1 shows the Doel Nuclear Power Plant. Ask yourself, what do you really know about nuclear power behind these stereotypical photos of them? In today's society, so much of what we learn and believe is imprinted on us through the media. News channels, television shows, and movies all posses a power to control the minds of the public. It is up to them to decide to show unbiased facts or stretch the truth in order to make more of a profit. But could the profit these media forums are fighting so hard to protect be ultimately harming that of the United States? Nuclear power could save the economy so much money in the long run, and it should have the support of the public. As a fairly frequent watcher of the news, I can honestly say that before taking PH241 at Stanford University I had been raised with an extremely negative perception of nuclear energy and knew only of the negative possibilities it possessed. How many positive news stories can there be on nuclear energy? Viewers lose interest when there is not some sort of disaster or traumatic event to be broadcasted about. I had grown up watching movies where the villain was a power hungry man wanting to blow up the world with his nuclear missiles. Blockbuster films showed people stealing nuclear launch codes or turning a nuclear energy creating device into a weapon. After learning about the reality of nuclear energy in PH241, my view has now shifted.

News Broadcasts Portrayal

News outlets love to blow stories out of proportion in order to gain an audience. This is true with virtually every type of story. In the case of nuclear power, it is no different. Nuclear accidents such as that of Chernobyl or the Three Mile Island accident are covered in the media even today, after having occurred decades ago. Nuclear weapons that other countries are in possession of are discussed heavily in the media. Very rarely do we see coverage of a positive involving nuclear energy. The media only likes to cover it if it is a horrible accident or has potentially to be dangerous or detrimental to society.

Movies Portrayal of Nuclear Power

Mission Impossible 4 (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). All of these movies have nuclear power involved in them, and all of these movies shed nothing but negative light on the topic. In Mission Impossible 4, the antagonist is a Russian nuclear scientist who attempts to start a nuclear war. Nuclear launch codes are stolen and the entire world nearly suffers as the bombs almost all go off. In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones must hide underground as he is caught in the middle of a nuclear bomb test that reduces an entire town to dust. In The Dark Knight Rises, the movie starts off with Bruce Wayne funding a fusion reactor energy project. Finally, for the first time there something positive about nuclear energy in the media, right? Wrong. Bruce Wayne defunds the project when he discovers that it can be weaponized and turned into a bomb that can destroy the city. And finally, it does become weaponized and Batman must transport it into the bay where it detonates in the water, saving the city of Gotham.

© Joey Alfieri. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.