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A New Fire is Spreading

 The New Fire 
A Film by David Schumacher

Review by Christopher Bergan
This is an incredible documentary: possibly the first of a kind as far as shining a positive spotlight directly on advanced nuclear power. You read that correctly. Though this was the directorial debut for David Schumacher, this pro-nuclear film is a collaborative project by persons who have previously won awards for making films and other audiovisual content.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana back on October 14, 2017. There was a light breeze on this partly sunny day in Indianapolis, though I drove through a couple rain showers back in Illinois to get there. The film has since been shown in Cambridge, UK; and in Zürich, Switzerland. It will be shown several other places back in the USA through 2018.

NOTE: This event at the Heartland Film Festival had nothing to do with The Heartland Institute. It’s common to find a Heartland-something-or-other in nearly every county of the mid-west United States – which locals consider to be “The Heart of America”.

There was a tent just outside the mall, with room for about 100 attendees to chat and take selfies in between sips of local craft beers. Inside the theater there were specific lines for the various film festival attendees. It seemed to be a well organized event. I should also mention that this showing had sold out, though there were a few empty seats in the theater. Apparently unanticipated road construction delays and at least one nearby university homecoming celebration disrupted traffic enough to severely delay a few attendees.

The tent just outside of the Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis

The actual film was nearly what I expected, though many of the specific details still surprised me. This documentary was centered on people and their passions, as any good tale should be. Here their common concerns include energy poverty, climate issues, and improving the human condition. Frustration with sharing this vision has driven each group of self-admitted science geeks to embark on a journey to fan the entrepreneurial fires of change – with the flame-less fires of neutronic activity.

This emerging industry took some in Washington by surprise, and brought lots of attention to the huge economic and security benefits of advanced nuclear. But here’s the thing… we aren’t the only country trying to commercialize advanced reactors and reap their rewards. Just check out the links at the end of this review!

There are several angles by which this documentary could be marketed. There’s the obvious Women in Nuclear tie-in which greatly supports girls involvement in STEAM education. There’s the entrepreneurial angle where young persons (women & men equally!) start a business with university-honed credentials. Or some may take a more traditional route, getting hired by a cutting edge multi-national company. Some will appreciate the zero GHG angle of climate change environmentalism. There’s even an advocacy-by-opera moment! One of many enjoyable moments was hearing nuclear scientists discuss characteristics of a vehicles’ automatic doors – something a few in the audience might relate to.

For the Q&A immediately after the film producer Ross Koningstein was on hand to lead off.

The Q&A session at The New Fire Premiere

Also present were cast members Dr. Per Peterson, Eric Meyer, Dr. Nick Touran, and Tom Blees. The director arrived a few minutes into the Q&A session, as he had flown in from a private engagement connected with this film in another state.

Though not planned, this documentary about new, advanced reactors is an excellent follow-up to the 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise by Robert Stone. Personally I’m looking forward to the eventual DVD release of The New Fire: the DVD extras just might be the best part of the project, as they were for Pandora’s Promise (at least in my opinion).

There is at least one other pro-nuclear documentary in the works as well. The industry seems to be greatly  changing from what it was a decade ago – from all angles. Despite the huge impact these advanced reactors will have on both climate efforts and industry when they start hitting the market in less than a decade, we already have a few images to help us understand where and how they’ll fit into our communities.

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Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear  (GAIN)

Additional information about The New Fire cast and advanced nuclear-power.

On The Ecomoderist Podcast, Rick & Gabe interview Emmy-winning director David Schumacher on his new documentary, The New Fire, which tells the story of the scientists and activists who are trying to save the planet by promoting nuclear power. One of the featured scientists, Dr. Leslie Dewan, is also interviewed.

On another edition of The Ecomodernist Podcast, Gabe & Rick talk with Rauli Partanen and Janne M. Korhonen, co-authors of Climate Gamble: Is Anti-Nuclear Activism Endangering Our Future?. This is a highly insightful book tackling one of the biggest problems of our time, climate change; and one of its most misunderstood solutions, nuclear power.

How will changes in the US government impact the advanced nuclear industry? This video has Oklo co-founder Caroline Cochran discussing issues of advanced reactors with NuScale Power’s John Hopkins and Southern Company’s Nick Irvin.

China’s first Gen IV reactor is scheduled to go online in 2018 – the Chinese pebble bed!

Dick Engel & Syd Ball discuss their time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where they built and operated a proto-type Molten Salt Reactor – back in the 1960’s!

Tireless nuclear energy advocate Scott Medwid says “I used to oppose nuclear”!

Dr. Sunniva Rose at TEDx speaks out for interdisciplinary approaches to life, which for her includes nuclear physics and the color pink!

Skeptic Thomas Jam Pedersen explains at TEDxCopenhagen how he became a reluctant fan of Thorium.

Urs Bolt, Director of the Swiss chapter of Energy for Humanity, was a guest on ANC Headstart (a Morning Show in the Philippines) 7 November 2016.

How Thorium can save the world: Salim Zwein shares a friendly lecture at TEDxBeirut 2012.

Ted Rockwell’s interview from 2002; during the early days of the Manhattan Project, nuclear was never just about the bombs. He also explains how radiation is everywhere & is quite safe in moderation.

Author and inventor Christopher Carson gives a very nuanced & slightly technical talk about nuclear energy and how he views the many facets of nuclear issues.

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