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Time to Join the Nuclear World?

As the temperature heats up with Summer well advanced, I thought it would be an opportune time to ponder on our nation’s ‘Nuclear Free’’ legislation and consider; is it still valid? Is it fit for purpose? But first a brief history lesson for the younger readers.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

In the sixties, we teenagers were kept petrified by the thought of the nuclear doom coming down on us. The threat of nuclear war and the resultant nuclear winter with (you guessed it) nuclear snow, had us quivering with fear. This fear was accentuated by movies such as The War Game that were circulated around schools to prove to us all that we had no real future. To us at this time, ‘nuclear ruin’ was our big enemy, in the same way ‘climate ruin’ is to today’s teens. It is hard for teenagers to fight adult publicity machines.


So, we yelled and screamed, protested in the streets with the result that the 1972 Labour Government with Norman Kirk as Prime Minister leapt to our aid. Their first action was to send a navy frigate to Mururoa Atoll to protest at French nuclear testing that was going on at that location. In the mid-eighties, this action was capped by the fourth Labour Government introducing our existing Nuclear Free legislation. These laws are now over 35 years old and are probably due for a re-think.


So, here we are 35 years on, and an old ‘Nuclear Free’ protestor is undergoing a rethink of the issue, as I am sure some old climate activist will be doing in another 35 years – reconsidering the weather taxes for which they fought. Such is life. So why re-consider ‘Nuclear Free’ legislation now?


There are three prime reasons to review the legislation, the first being that nuclear conflict is not as imminent as previously thought. In fact, it has been low risk for many years. In terms of defence, we have had only one significant relationship, that with Australia, over this period as our nuclear stance was a negative for potential allies. But as the political climate in the Pacific changes, with China and the USA jostling for position, it is becoming necessary for us to take a position and to take part in our defence and in the defence of this region. Our new government has already indicated a willingness to talk about joining the AUKUS alliance (Australia, UK and USA) but this is more likely to go ahead if we are willing to enable nuclear propelled vessels into our waters.


The second reason relates to the proliferation of ‘Green’ \shipping, with the new breed of nuclear powered, super container carriers being the most dominant. Our importing and exporting activities will become more and more reliant on such vessels and if we do not accommodate them, we will be downgraded as a shipping destination, being forced to use conventional ships to move containers to hubs, most likely Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. The increased handling and complexity of shipping will drive up our costs for both imports and exports with negative effects on our lifestyle. We must move to be the ‘Hub’ for the South Pacific with the economic advantages that will bring. This means not only a change to our nuclear legislation but an ability to handle these super carriers quickly and efficiently. It’s about time the Port of Auckland got relocated to the Hauraki Gulf but that is another article.

Finally, if we are to make real moves to have ‘sustainable’ energy, we should consider nuclear options for power generation. Most of our power is generated by hydroelectricity so we are pretty good in sustainable electricity, but increased production is required if we are to handle the growth in the use of battery technologies with their demands for re-charging. We could turn more valleys into lakes, but we will need these valleys for landfills for the mountains of batteries we will consume. So, what is the solution? The current ones seem to be to clear beautiful bush clad hills so that we can plant huge ugly windmills on them. They have the advantage of being relatively quick to build but are a negative influence on the environment, both when operating and when disposed of, by burial. The other option seems to be solar power, whereby hundreds of acres of good flat land that could produce food are swallowed up by ugly fields of solar panels that will be broken within a couple of years. Far better to replace such options with powerful nuclear power generation facilities, located in suitable areas such as Southland or Matamata.


Well, that’s the pondering for this week, something to think about; but actually, we need to do more than think about this if we are to avoid a gradual downward slide in our standard of living.