On Friday, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook Southern California. The extremely powerful earthquake took place one day after a 6.4-magnitude tremor struck 122 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
“You’ve still got two reactors at Diablo Canyon [Power Plant], which is in central California, and they are in a major earthquake danger zone. These are earthquake fault lines discovered just a few years ago; this is decades after the plant was built … So Diablo is a really scary earthquake scenario, and it’s supposed to shut down permanently by 2025. But even after shutdown, you still have the high-level radioactive waste stored on site … So, the waste is still a major concern,” Kamps told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon.
Storage pools for spent fuel from nuclear reactors also face the risk of leaking radioactive waste.
“At Fukushima, there is strong evidence that the first unit to meltdown, Unit 1 - that the earthquake did it,” Kamps explained. “The industry wants the world to believe that it was the tsunami that was the cause, because tsunamis are more rare than earthquakes.”
In March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan’s Ōkuma, Fukushima prefecture, was hit by a 46-foot tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake. The natural disaster crippled the facility's cooling system and resulted in the leakage of radioactive materials, hydrogen-air explosions and eventually the plant's shutdown, Sputnik previously reported.
But Kamps said there was another scenario that has “really not gotten much attention” that came very close to happening at Fukushima: a high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire.
“Most of the waste in this country, in the US, is still in the storage pools. Something like two-thirds of the waste is still in the storage pools, and a third has now moved in these outdoor containers called dry casts. What can happen is, you can lose the cooling water supply in your storage pool, and then all of the waste in the pool will go off in flames,” Kamps explained, also noting that if that scenario had played out at Fukushima, the number of evacuees would have increased from 160,000 to a shocking 50 million.
According to Kamps, nuclear catastrophes could have effects across the entire world.
“These nuclear catastrophes are global in nature. Chernobyl was a design flaw and operator error,” Kamps said, referring to the Chernobyl accident which occurred in the now-abandoned town of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1986. “It took out a big chunk of the former Soviet Union, and there was fallout across Europe and the northern hemisphere. So nuclear plants pack quite a punch when things go wrong, and just so folks in the eastern US don’t think they’re off the hook, some of the worst earthquake risks in the US are in the east.”
A failed experiment to test new equipment resulted in a blast that destroyed the Chernobyl reactor’s core, igniting a fire that continued to burn for over a week. The explosion was followed by a spew of radioactive gases, including cesium, into the atmosphere, causing acid rain to fall across northern Europe for weeks after the disaster and creating a permanent exclusion zone downwind of the power plant, where the radioactive material fell and contaminated the soil and water.
“These are global catastrophes. Things can be done ad hoc afterwards to try to mitigate the global catastrophe that’s unfolding, but people are going to pay with their lives for it. So, you know, it starts to beg the question, why wouldn’t we start making electricity with renewables? Like solar? Wind? You can't have a global catastrophe come out of it. In the end, it kind of boils down to greed and maybe national power, because there are so many overlaps between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. So that’s a pretty poor excuse,” Kamps said, also noting that “it’s high time to retire these global catastrophes before more catastrophes happen.”
“Nuclear was unveiled to the world at Hiroshima and Nagasaki [in Japan]. And unfortuantely, even those bombings weren’t necessary. The war was over … Japan was defeated. Unfortunately, [US Army Gen. Dwight David] Eisenhower [who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961] then got over his qualms, and by 1953, he did his Atoms for Peace speech at the United Nations, which was really a con job, because what the US was doing was trying to make everything nuclear ‘OK,’ because it was all going to be Atoms for Peace now,” Kamps said.
“What it was was a huge buildup of all things nuclear to win the arms race against the Soviets. All the uranium mining and milling and processing? Where was all that uranium going? For a long time it was simply going into nuclear weapons. So, there’s been this addiction by the US and other countries - Russia, the UK, France, China and others to nuclear weapons as their international power, their international strength, their ultimate defense,” Kamps explained.
In addition, the nuclear power industry isn’t the answer to climate change because it does not take into account rising sea levels, Kamps noted.
“The nuclear power industry would like you to think that everyone thinks that it is the answer to the carbon crisis, because nuclear power is low carbon emissions. It’s actually inside out and upside down on what they are saying. A lot of the nuclear power plants in the US are on the coastlines - they use the ocean for cooling water. On the East Coast, you have dozens of atomic reactors. One of the problems with the climate crisis is sea levels are rising … so that’s one problem, more hurricanes, tornadoes, stronger hurricanes, stronger tornadoes, historic floods,” Kamps explained.