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25 years nuke free

Written By: - Date published: 8:56 am, June 10th, 2012 - 46 comments
Categories: activism, defence, Environment, International - Tags:

I have never been prouder of NZ than I was when we went Nuclear Free. We put principle ahead of profit, we stood up to some heavy diplomatic pressure, and we spoke our piece to the world. Lange in the Oxford Union debate – magnificent (a redeeming star amidst all of the other damage that that government wrought).

Hard to believe it was 25 years ago.

Things are looking good for the future too. I don’t think that even the Nats will mess with Nuclear free now – it remains iconic for too many people if the recent (unscientific, right-leaning) Herald poll is anything to go by.

It’s not all roses however, from The Herald on Friday:

Activist takes N-free battle overseas

New Zealand marks 25 years of being legally nuclear-free today – but a Kiwi who has made nuclear disarmament his life’s mission is leaving the country because of a lack of local support.

Tauranga-born Alyn Ware, who set up a global network of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament in 2002, will speak at a concert in Auckland’s Aotea Square tomorrow marking the 25th anniversary of the anti-nuclear law.

But the Wellington office from which he has co-ordinated the global network for 10 years has closed because of cuts to NZ Peace Foundation funding.

Next month, he will take up an offer of office space at the University of Basel in Switzerland, with support from Basel council. “The countries that are picking up the disarmament ball are no longer down here. New Zealand is no longer a big player in this,” he said.

That’s a sad way to mark an important anniversary.


46 comments on “25 years nuke free”

  1. Rupert the Beer 1

    Little worried that 29% said that it should effectively be scraped, while another 15% said it wasn’t important…

    • r0b 1.1

      It’s a Herald poll, with all that implies.

    • Foreign Waka 1.2

      Education is the key, but then again physics prerequisite is the understanding of mathematics. Well, with the national sport of raising a whole generation with no deeper knowledge it should not come as a surprise that in 20 years time all that was fought for will be lost.

  2. Rusty Shackleford 2

    Turning your back on an entire technology, especially one of the safest, “greenest” energy sources in existence, was and is utterly misguided. “Nuclear weapons free”?, sounds pretty good. But, if NZ had started investing in nuclear energy 25 years ago, we would probably have much lower energy prices today.

    Especially if we had invested in thorium. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle

    • Tiger Mountain 2.1

      Or cars that run on water etc eh Rusty. Current human society can’t even get around to kicking the capitalists arses and feeding everyone 60 years after the foundation of the UN, so certainly shouldn’t be trusted with more nuclear energy just yet.

      Kiwis showed the way all those years ago when cruise missiles and SS20s were deployed by the thousand. House by house, suburb by suburb NZ went nuke free, it was and remains a beautiful thing.
      Hilarious that some whacko US developer is turning ‘retired’ mid west missile silos into apartments that double as self contained shelters for their wealthy owners in the event of societal meltdown.

    • r0b 2.2

      Safest and greenest. Mmmmm. Off course we’d be fine here, because we never have earthquakes, right?

      • Pete 2.2.1

        I used to be marginally in favour of nuclear power. I thought it was a better alternative to coal and the damage done to river systems by dams. New techniques of sequestering waste in glass and, in turn, ceramic vessels looked promising to me. Fukushima ruled that out entirely for me. New Zealand is not stable enough for such a plant and we don’t have the resources to deal with an accident if we have one.

        • Lanthanide

          I’m in favour of new nuclear plants, with 100% fail-safe design. Ones that produce less waste or use up existing waste are also a big plus.

          The problem with fukushima is both with the inherently unsafe reactor design and also the corner cutting and fudging that the Japanese companies that ran that plant (and others in the country) got away with for decades.

          Unfortunately due to the public spectacle of the fukushima disaster, there will now be considerably less investment in nuclear energy worldwide, which in turn will mean less investment into safer and better reactor designs.

          • Uturn

            “the public spectacle”

            I guess I have a couple of choices. 1) cry 2) laugh 3) find new blog to read 4) bash my face repeatedly on the monitor.

    • joe90 2.3

      Yeah Rusty, 25 years later and nuclear power is still a financial nightmare.

      Time is money, they say, and the new nuclear power plant being built by EDF at Flamanville in France is now at least four years behind time and €2.7bn over budget. EDF blamed the delay on two fatal construction accidents and dealing with safety analyses prompted by the Fukushima disaster.


      The only other new nuclear plant being built in Europe is at Olkiluoto in Finland. Areva, like EDF a state-controlled French company, told me this will be connected to the grid no sooner than 2013 and costs are now estimated at €5.6bn. That is four years late and €2.6bn over budget.

    • Foreign Waka 2.4

      Please, please investigate what you write about. It is not necessary the use but the waste that is the problem with this source of energy. At the moment all the waste is being dumped underground and in the sea. So far no solution has been found for the highly poisonous side product of nuclear plants.
      It is well known in Europe that this will pose one of the biggest problems for the next 100 years as the concrete filled drums used to keep the waste encased and buried will show signs of deterioration. So what then? Seems to me a case of who cares since no money can be made from it.

    • Lanthanide 2.5

      Are you suggesting that NZ is of sufficient size to warrant a nuclear plant? Most of the country is at risk from big earthquakes, which makes it quite problematic.

      Now if you’re suggesting the government could have been ‘investing’ money in nuclear energy companies around the world or our own in NZ, then sure, I could agree with that proposition. But to think that NZ is of the size to make nuclear energy a sensible option, given our vast wealth of renewable sources such as rivers, geothermal hot spots, windy hills and ocean currents (cook straight has some of the strongest in the world) is rather naive.

  3. Pete 3

    Wasn’t there a ministerial portfolio for disarmament? Where did that go?

  4. Foreign Waka 4

    Congrats to NZ for its shining example of banning nuclear material.
    The world over waste is dumped into the sea, buried under the soil and countless accidents have not been reported.
    The latest disaster in Japan just shows how unsafe it is to use nuclear energy in and around the pacific rim plate, despite all the technological advances – and Japan is light-years ahead of NZ.
    Chernobyl still shows its aftermath in miscarriages, malformation, infertility in humans and animals alike. A vast area is uninhabitable for hundreds of years – but of cause this is not worth any headline anymore.
    So again – Great that NZ has stood up and declared itself Nuclear free.

    • Fortran 4.1

      What about the Nuclear material used in our Hospitals.

      It helps save and prolong life.

      • Lanthanide 4.1.1

        Exactly correct. NZ is nuclear reactor/weapon free, not nuclear material free.

      • millsy 4.1.2

        Used in very small amounts, and not that dangerous compared to a nuclear reactor.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.3

        There’s a bit of a difference between the small amounts of radioactive material used to conduct medical procedures, and the tonnes used and produced by a nuclear powerplant. Or the thousands of tonnes of radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion.

      • pmofnz 4.1.4

        Or the nuke material in your smoke alarm sensor detectors.

        Unfortunately we’ve just wasted 25 years burying our heads in the sand. Go nuke!

        • bbfloyd

          So, because a few grammes here and there of a naturally occurring substance can be used safely justifies creating thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive material that will stay lethally toxic for tens of thousands of years??

          Is it national stupid day or what? does a single proponent of our collective death wish even come close to grasping how long that really is? the idea that this material can lie untouched, and safe for longer than our recorded history to date doesn’t give pause for thought?

          So how much of a guarantee do the future generations have that the location of all of the toxic deposits will be known in say, 300 years? try 700, 1000, 1500 years from now….. because those deposits will still be deadly for much longer than that….

          Making a virtue of stupidity is just that…stupid..

          • RedLogix

            What’s really interesting is that pmofnz isn’t in the slightest bit fazed by his stupidity… on this or any one of dozens of other topics he’ll be wrong about too.

            Now I’ve no problem with people holding differing opinions. Especially if they can back them up with evidence and a reasoned argument. Even more so if they can change that opinion when it’s shown to be in conflict with reality. Now these are not difficult requirements; the average person who attended school in this country and with a normal range IQ should be able to achieve these things.

            So it’s intriguing to see how so often even this elementary hurdle remains unleapt. It’s not stupidity at work here; at least not in the normal sense we use the word. (Although of course it frequently masquerades as stupid.)

            The problem is that when presented with events or evidence that is in conflict with the inner model a person is using to decode reality… the most common response is to simply filter it out. The conscious brain isn’t even aware this is happening. So when we explain in detail why nuclear power is a BAD idea… people who truly believe it is a GOOD thing simply hear “blah, blah, blah”. Their mind simply cannot register anything BAD about nuclear power because the inner model they are using has no place for the concept.

            Whenever you see someone refusing the engage with facts, or evidence or logic and instead merely repeat unthinking slogans or soundbites you know this is what is going on.

            • pmofnz

              And you wonder why I hear “blah, blah, blah”? Once again the standard response from the left is to instantly play the man.

              • RedLogix

                You are the one who conflated the risk associated with micrograms of isotope in a smoke detector with the thousands of tonnes of high level material in all the nuclear power reactors. And then concluded with the slogan …”Go Nuke”.

                Besides the point I was making is not that you are ‘stupid’ are such… rather it is your brain filtering out information that is incongruent with your inner model of reality.

                If you were engaging with evidence or reason… as distinct from repeating slogans or tired flabby old soundbites … then we would be having a proper discussion. But I can’t do this on my own.

                You have to join in. Unfortunately until you are willing to get past the fear of having your inner assumptions and models challenged that’s not going to happen.

                • pmofnz

                  I notice that none of your commentators who also specified that we are not nuke free, in whatever quantity did not get jumped on as being stupid.

                  I still stand by my original statement of ‘we’ve just wasted 25 years burying our heads in the sand’ and that we should be utilising nuclear for power.

                  • RedLogix

                    “Nuclear free” clearly means the absence of nuclear weapons and power-scale reactors.

                    The presence of isotopes for medical, industrial and sundry other purposes is utterly irrelevant to the discussion. It’s akin to claiming that “there is a beach in my living room” if I found a single grain of sand embedded in the carpet somewhere.

                    Now why was it that you believe nuclear power is a good idea again?

                    • pmofnz

                      Much better now you’ve got away from slagging off the man.

                      As you’ve probably gathered, I happen to strongly disagree with the absence of power-scale reactors. And forever we’ll probably agree to disagree on that matter.

                      I’d also daresay that operators of nuke power stations, have in the wake of incidents such as Fukushima and the Ohio plant, employed the best engineering brains to fix backup cooling systems. Unfortunately for New Zealand, we produce PE teachers in copious quantities, not nuclear engineers.

                      Finally, to paraphrase:

                      Now why was it that you believe nuclear power is a not good idea again?


                    • RedLogix

                      Actually we have already employed the ‘best-brains’ to design all our existing reactors. They have already done what they thought was their best. Yet reality continues to bite them in the bum. At the rate of about one massive core melt-down per decade.

                      I’ve made a point of reading up as much as I can about Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island and Fukushima. I’ve a fairly good idea what the root causes were, what the cascade of events were… and just how remarkably lucky we have been that none of these events (and others) did not escalate into catastrophes far worse.

                      At the current rate of one meltdown per decade (and near misses far more often)… our luck will run out one day. That is why I do not believe nuclear power is a good idea.

                      Nor do most Japanese these days…..

                  • Colonial Viper

                    I still stand by my original statement of ‘we’ve just wasted 25 years burying our heads in the sand’ and that we should be utilising nuclear for power.

                    The only way to make nuclear power profitable is to ignore the massive costs associated with a potential accident (or make the government shoulder all the risk and cost), and also to run down the plant and equipment with insufficient maintenance and replacement.

                    Fukushima is a classic example. Over-full spent fuel storage pools which overheated rapidly once coolant systems failed.

                    Why were the storage pools over-full?

                    Because it would have cost money to build new storage pools or use long term storage options. “Cheaper” (in the short term) just to keep stacking the hot spent fuel assemblies tighter and tighter together.

          • prism

            Is it national stupid day or what?
            Every day mate.

      • RedLogix 4.1.5

        Once upon a time I used to work with quite strong nuclear sources, (Kr85 and Ce135 to be exact) in an industrial setting. The Kr85 beta source in particular was strong enough to instantly destroy eyesight and give severe skin burns.

        Needless to say there was a whole bunch of training, regulations and rules around every aspect of transporting, operating and disposing of them. Even so I was always ‘on alert’ whenever anything out of the ordinary needed doing with them.

        But there is an enormous gulf between the amount of material we were using and that used in a typical nuclear reactor site. Many orders of magnitude. Like comparing the amount of rock in a wheelbarrow with the mass of the Tararuras.

        So it’s bizarre and baffling that you absolutely rely on someone (like pmofnz above) to try and derail any discussion around nuclear energy by trying to conflate the exceedingly low risk industrial and medical applications of nuclear isotopes…with the utterly different risk inherent in large scale nuclear power plants.

        So far we have been operating about 450 odd nuclear power reactors on an industrial scale for about 50 years. In that time at least 5 reactors have suffered massive accidents and meltdowns. That is about one per decade. There have also been numerous near-misses and lessor incidents that most people outside the industry are unaware of.

        Worse still we have yet to see the real downside risk of these plants as they increasingly age and are ultimately de-commissioned. There is an immense expense involved in de-fuelling, de-constructing and safely storing huge amounts of radioactive waste material (of varying levels of risk) for not just decades but centuries. And this can ONLY be achieved safely in the context of a politically, economically stable, technically advanced and capable society.

        The danger from nuclear reactors is locked in. Once you start operating one you are committed to a several hundred year process. Failure, technical, economic or political at any point in that huge period is potentially catastrophic. Not just failures we can imagine, but ones we never guessed at … like Fukushima… are the ones that will almost certainly bite us.

        Oh and just for one minute consider what would have happened if the Sendai quake had occurred 12 hrs later. Instead of it happening of a Friday morning when the plants were fully staffed with over 1000 people on site, there would have been a tiny(<30) number of operating staff available at both Fukishima Dai-ichi and Dai-ini. In the middle of the night this handful of staff on both sites would have been overwhelmed, and most others would have been unable to get back in time to prevent an event vastly more catastrophic than what has already happened.

        And if the wind perchance had blown in the wrong direction the death toll would have been in the tens of millions. Madness.

      • joe90 4.1.6

        @ pmofnz

        Louis Slotin and the criticality accident.

        • pmofnz

          There’s a big difference between some nutter doing a Darwin fiddling around with critical masses of nuke weapons grade materiel and the hundreds of operational nuke plants safely providing power and propulsion worldwide.

          • RedLogix

            So you haven’t noticed any nuclear plants that failed to operate safely have you? Just pretending no meltdowns have ever happened? And no close calls either?

            Of course you won’t have read about the incident at a major Ohio nuclear plant during the Northeast power blackout of 2003.

            When the grid tripped out the plant lost load so the six reactors on site all had to be scrammed. Now the eight diesel electric power plants had about 90 seconds to start up in order to handle the substantial amount of residual power still being generated. Immediately after the control rods are inserted there remains about 5% of the rated power still being created. For a typical 1000MW generator that’s still 50MW of power that has to be removed. Ever looked into the guts of a 10MW steam boiler running? It’s a shit-load of heat, and without circulating water to remove that heat the core of the reactors will start to disintegrate within a remarkably short period of time.

            The diesels are essential to power the huge pumps that circulate that cooling water. On the day of this blackout seven of the eight diesels failed to start immediately for one reason or another.

            If the eighth one had failed to start… the USA would no longer exist as a nation. Never made the news, but I’ve personally read the technical report.

          • Colonial Viper

            There’s a big difference between some nutter doing a Darwin fiddling around with critical masses of nuke weapons grade materiel

            You better read up on the two Tokaimura criticality incidents in Japan.


            • pmofnz

              Actually CV I have looked at the 22 reported criticality incidents and the common theme is
              cause of the accident was said to be “human error and serious breaches of safety principles”.

              A lot of the incidents appear to have occurred in lab situations, during testing, not in industrial scale operations, where operators have done something decidedly dodgy.

          • Foreign Waka

            “Who does not know the truth, is simply a fool…
            Yet who knows the truth and calls it a lie, is a criminal…..
            B. Brecht: Galileo Galilei

            Interested in some truth?

  5. Jenny 5

    I have never been prouder of NZ than I was when we went Nuclear Free. We put principle ahead of profit, we stood up to some heavy diplomatic pressure, and we spoke our piece to the world.


    We need to feel that pride again. We again need to put principle ahead of profit. We again need to stand up to heavy political, and corporate pressure. We need to speak our piece to the world.

    Kiwis against a Cold War, to Kiwis against a Warming World

    Nuclear War was the greatest threat to humanity and the planet in the 20th Century.

    Despite being far from the probable theatre of any nuclear exchange, and the least in danger of any people on Earth. In 1984 New Zealanders took a stand and we became Nuclear Free.

    New Zealanders stood up to the global superpowers of the time. By stepping out of their dangerous game of global nuclear rivalry and kilatonnes per- humanbeing one-upmanship. We signaled to the world that this state of affairs was not acceptable. We signaled to the world, that a free people needn’t choose to live under the nuclear threat.

    Climate Change is the greatest threat to humanity and the planet in the 21st Century.

    Despite being responsible for only 0.2% global warming. We again need to signal to the world that this state of affairs is not acceptable. The greatest single threat to the climate globally, is the mining and burning of coal. By 2014 New Zealanders need to take a stand and become Coal Free.

    We need to signal to the world that the destruction of the bio-sphere is not something that a free people need to live with.

    • OneTrack 5.1

      ” In 1984 New Zealanders took a stand and we became Nuclear Free.”

      And did that make any difference to anybody else? Nope. So why be so proud of it?

      Global warming, oops I mean climate change? No warming in over ten years means this is becoming a hard argument to sustain. People are losing the faith.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1


        Still looks like it’s going up to me which would indicate that you’re either lying or just repeating some BS that you heard from somebody who was lying.

      • Jenny 5.1.2

        And did that make any difference to anybody else? Nope. So why be so proud of it?


        Shamefully, as everyone knows David Lange announced that this policy was not for export.

        Despite this, the policy did start to spread, being especially popular in the island nations of the the Pacific. The Labour government of Fiji under the leadership of Timoti Bavandra was elected in 1987on a policy of increasing trade union rights, instituting a state housing programme, and significantly a declared intention to make Fiji Nuclear Free.

        Like New Zealand this policy did not come out of thin air, the Fiji Anti-Nuclear Group, FANG, was an influential protest and lobby group, with links to the powerful Fijian trade union movement.

        The sea walls of Suva harbour were daubed with large FANG anti-Nuclear graffiti much to the chagrin of the visiting US navy. As the saying goes, the writing was on the wall for the US nuclear navy in Fiji.

        All this was swept away in the military coup led by Colonel Sitveni Rabuka. Union rights were curtailed and union leaders jailed. The state housing programme was canceled. And, the red carpet was again rolled out for US navy nuclear warship visits.

      • Foreign Waka 5.1.3

        OneTrack – Are you aware of the admiration around the world for NZ anti nuclear stance? NZlaenders have every reason to be proud to be most likely the ONLY country in the world where kids can grow up without having their genetic material forever altered by just playing in the sandpit. Are you really aware what it means?

    • Colonial Viper 5.2

      Japan ending nuclear power has meant that millions more tonnes of oil and coal is being burnt in their thermal plants.

  6. Steve Wrathall 6

    The fact that after 25 years not a single other country has followed this “leadership” is fair comment on the quality of this policy. Indeed, the eastern European communist dictatorships at the time praised the Lange government’s pre-emptive appeasement. Once their people were free to choose they jumped boots and all into NATO. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russian generals admitted it was the hard-line Reagan/Thatcher policies of containment that accelerated the fall of communism. The fact that NZ deserted the Western Alliance at the 11th hour is nothing to be proud of.

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    2 weeks ago
  • Andrew Little: Speech to the Police Association Conference 2016
    Police Association delegates, Association life members and staff, representatives from overseas jurisdictions. Thank you for inviting me here today. The Police Association has become a strong and respected voice for Police officers and for policing in New Zealand. There is ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 1,000 more police for safer communities
    Labour will fund an extra 1,000 Police in its first term to tackle the rising rate of crime, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Labour will put more cops on the beat to keep our communities safe. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Call for all-party round table on homelessness
    Labour is calling on the Government to take part in a roundtable meeting to hammer out a cross-party agreement on ending homelessness.  Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the country wanted positive solutions to homelessness, and wanted the political parties ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Seclusion rooms in schools
    Schools are undoubtedly stretched and underfunded to cope with students with high learning support needs. But this cannot justify the use of rooms (or cupboards) as spaces to forcibly isolate children. It has emerged via media that this practice continues ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    2 weeks ago
  • Public should get a say on new Waikato power station
    I had an opinion piece published in the Waikato Times about a controversial proposal to build a new gas-fired power station. It’s not on their website yet, so here it is: If you think the public would get a say ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago
  • MSD and their investment approach
    The Government talks about investment but there is no investment. It is not investment if it isn’t over the whole of life and if there is no new money  — Shamubeel Eaqub   Investment sounds like adequate resourcing but this ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Certainty needed for community services
    A couple of months ago I was at a seminar where three community organisations were presenting. Two of the three presenters were waiting to find out if their organisation would get a contract renewed with MSD. Not knowing if their ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Domestic Violence – some advice for the media
    For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to use Domestic Violence (DV) as a proxy for intimate partner violence. DV is not isolated to physical abuse in a relationship between people with the same power. DV is a pattern of ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    3 weeks ago
  • Leroy’s New Paw Prints
    Leroy, an Auckland great dane recently received a new 3D printed bionic leg after cancer was discovered. I think this is a fantastic story and highlights the real potential of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing Leroy’s prosthetic was printed in titanium and was ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    3 weeks ago