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A is for atom by Curtis, Adam

The concluding part of the BBC television documentary series Pandora's Box, A is for atom elucidates on the history of nuclear power in the US, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. The documentary covers the history of men's harnessing of the atom as it began with the apocalyptic atom bomb, to later more peaceful uses of the same technology. The documentary consists of archival footage accompanied by narration and interviews with those who were involved in the respective scientific, political and economic administrations.

The documentary argues how scientists who had aided in the development of the atomic bomb felt morally obligated to develop a more peaceful use for the power of the atom. The enthusiasm for a utopian society powered by a new limitless energy source quickly dissipated as political and economic powers started to intervene in the implementation of the technology. Their desire to make nuclear power not only practical but also profitable led to a cut in costs at the expense of safety.

Social interest
As the political and economic commitment to nuclear power greatly surpassed the technological possibilities it slowly became apparent that nuclear energy raised more obstacles than it could overcome. After several accidents at nuclear plants it emerged that the responsible scientist had deliberately concealed many of the involved risks and uncertainties. The neglect to inform the public eventually led to a change in public sentiment.

Although the documentary focuses on the negative aspects of nuclear power, it concludes, as the filmmaker did in The engineer's plot, that technology is not inherently wrong. It is only through the specific implementation by political and economic powers that it gains either a positive or negative connotation. The documentary highlights that science and technology can only create possibilities and that the history of nuclear power is as much a history of political, economic and social influences.

Pandora's Box
Pandora's Box is a six part BBC television documentary series written and produced by British television producer and documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. Each part of the series focuses on social, political or scientific aspects of reality and examines the increasing influence and danger of political and technological rationalism.

About the filmmaker
Adam Curtis is a renowned British television producer and documentary filmmaker noted for making programmes which often make far reaching claims on grand subjects. The scale of his subject matter and his claims to the undisputable truth of his opinion often give rise to controversy. However, his documentaries always expound clear views on the subject and are structurally well argued. Curtis is known for his extensive use of archival footage and the narration of his own documentaries.

Pandora's Box won the 1993 BAFTA Award for Best Factual Series.

Curtis, Adam
Copyright Holder
46 min.
Year of release
English, Russian

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