In South Africa there are few, if any, more vocal proponents of nuclear power than Kelvin Kemm, recently appointed chair of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA) board.
Kemm was a proponent of the Pebble Bed reactor project (PBMR), which turned into an expensive failure for South African tax payers, who funded the project for somewhere around R10 billion. Most of that went to salaries and consulting fees for those in the industry such as Kemm.
A local investigative magazine, Noseweek, did a bit of digging into Kemm, and came up with a lot of information about CFACT, or the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, which is a sugar coated name for a lobby group funded by oil and coal companies.
Hired to head CFACT was Marc Morano, an expert at disinformation.Morano had previously been employed by the tobacco industry to persuade smokers to deny or at least doubt the scientifically established link between smoking and cancer. CFACT supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and has opposed the Kyoto Protocol. In general it supplies disinformation in an attempt to dismiss climate change as a scam in order to allow fossil fuel companies to continue to profit at the expense of the environment.
Kemm has contributed to this disinformation campaign, and as a advisory board member he wrote articles for CFACT dismissing the threat of climate change, such as this one in 2011: Society being misled by proponents of human induced climate change.
Looking back at this now, and the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change, it seems that either Kemm was very badly wrong in his scientific opinions, or being intentionally misleading. To date, Kemm continues to cling to the view that the scientific consensus is that climate change is not related to human activity.
Kemm has also written the ludicrous claim that Fukushima was not a nuclear disaster. That article is scattered with unscientific phrases like “a very small amount of radioactive dust”, “a bit of radioactive Tritium”, and “mildly radioactive” which is used four times. It also boldly claims that “the Fukushima incident was actually a wonderful illustration of the safety of nuclear power”! Kemm believes there was no need to evacuate the Fukushima area at all.
On 29 November 2016, Kemm sat with the South Africa Portfolio Committee on Energy, and offered advice in his role as chair of NECSA. He painted a glowing picture of nuclear energy, and strongly advocated that South Africa goes ahead with its new nuclear fleet programme. At the same time, Kemm is the CEO of a company called Nuclear Africa, which offers consultancy services in the field of nuclear power, and so stands to benefit hugely if the nuclear fleet plans go ahead.
Somehow, Kemm believes he knows better than the Japanese government, and the experts advising them. He also sees no conflict of interest in running a South African nuclear consultancy company, while advising the South African government to go ahead with nuclear. It is this arrogance, combined with a dodgy record of contrary scientific opinions, that makes Kemm a very dangerous man to be heading NECSA in South Africa. As Noseweek wrote, do we really want a man like Kemm to have his finger on our nuclear button?