Dr. Kelvin Kemm, a nuclear physicist, spoke Friday at the University of Massachusetts at an event put on by the newly-formed Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). Promotional posters advertising the event declared the talk’s topics to be the “Japan nuclear disaster, the future of nuclear energy and nuclear energy in the Third World.”
“I see that there are a large number of professors in the audience and I think this will raise the level of discourse,” said Dmitriy Shapiro, chairman of CFACT’s UMass chapter, during the event.
Addressing the roughly 20 attendees dispersed among the various rows of Integrated Sciences Building room 133, which has an approximate capacity of 90 occupants, Shapiro elaborated on the mission of CFACT and the role of Kemm’s talk in helping to fulfill this mission. The event was co-sponsored by Gerald Peterson, a professor emeritus in the UMass physics department.
Asked later about how he became involved in sponsoring the event, Peterson said that it happened “by pure chance.” According to Peterson, Shapiro had hoped that the physics department would sponsor the event, but the “department head would not do so” as Kemm “did not totally accept the common explanation of global warming.”
Peterson said he decided that “in the interests of free speech and academic freedom, I let my name be used as a co-sponsor of the event.”
“CFACT is a conservative group advocating free trade policies,” said Shapiro. He said he disapproved of other conservative groups’ engagement in unseemly behavior, such as throwing eggs at pictures of Al Gore, and hoped that events such as this would promote a more “intelligent discourse” between both sides on issues in the “Green War.”
The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, of which CFACT is the student branch, was founded in 1985.
In addition to holding a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, Kemm is the CEO of STRATEK Business Strategy Consultants, and is founder of a lobby group called Green and Gold Forum. Kemm is also a member of the advisory board of CFACT and the author of two articles currently displayed on the front page of its website.
After being introduced by Shapiro, Kemm began his presentation by showing background information on South Africa. Kemm gave information on many aspects of South African life, noting that South Africa has 11 official languages and that hippopotami kill more South Africans than any other animal. He also showed a photograph of three South African college students in a hot tub with drinks, noting that “they’re pretty much like college students here.”
Additionally, before speaking about issues pertaining to nuclear power, Kemm presented a number of photographs and information on South African life – which drew reaction from one audience member, who was eager to hear more about the nuclear issues. Shortly after, Kemm switched to the nuclear topic.
“If you had a car which goes out of control and crashes, but the airbags worked and the passenger is fine, would you call it a disaster or say that car’s safety features had functioned properly?” Kemm asked at the onset of his nuclear presentation.
Kemm went on to explain that the car metaphorically represented the Three Mile Island nuclear plant meltdown of 1979.
“Three Mile Island is a success story,” he stated.
He went on to explain that he believes nuclear energy to be essential in providing power to Africa, as coal availability is extremely limited. He promotes use of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor in African electrical development. Kemm stated that solar and wind technology “have their place,” but that he does not personally support them coming onto the African grid.
“Now, about Fukishima,” said Kemm. After stating that it was not the earthquake but the tsunami that followed that caused the damage to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kemm said he believed it was unreasonable to expect that the plant would not be damaged by the earthquake. He also stressed that the plant was 40 years old and scheduled to be dismantled.
“It’s a boiling water reactor. There aren’t any boiling water reactors in the United States,” said Kemm. “Maybe there are, but I don’t think so.”
According to reports by MSNBC and the Orange County Register, there are, however, 23 boiling water reactors in the United States of precisely the same design and age range as Fukushima Daiichi, one of which is located in Plymouth.
Kemm called the current 20 km evacuation zone at the Fukushima Daiichi plant a “gross overreaction.” In his opinion, very little radiation has so far been released.
“At this point, I wouldn’t say a disaster has occurred,” Kemm continued. “Only a little bit of iodine was released.”
He further stated that he believes that the situation in Japan is different from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine because the reactors have containment vessels at Fukushima Daiichi. Additionally, Kemm claimed that only 60 people were killed in the Chernobyl disaster.
Kemm, however, did not state where he derived his figures for the death toll attributable to the Chernobyl Disaster. The World Health Organization estimates that 43 deaths can be directly attributed to the disaster, while about 4,000 deaths are said to come from subsequent cancers. A more recent report by the New York Academy of Sciences, however, concluded that 980,000 deaths were attributable to the meltdown.
Kemm went on to state that he believes nuclear energy to be the future of the world’s electricity, and that he hopes it will spread rapidly around the world.
“In a hundred years, I think people will look back and think ‘why did they have any doubts about it?’” Kemm said.
Melanie Muller can be reached at [email protected]