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Nukes And Nats A Real Risk To Public Safety

16 June 2004
Nukes and Nats a real risk to public safety

Green Party questions in the House today have confirmed that the National Party is out of step with international thinking on the safety of nuclear-propelled ships.

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons asked Foreign Minister Phil Goff if his Government was aware that nuclear ships are banned from a number of ports around the world and of the stockpiling of iodine anti-cancer tablets near British naval bases.

"National is actively misleading the public of New Zealand with its claims that there is little or no risk in having nuclear-propelled ships in our ports," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Environment Spokesperson.

"The papers I tabled in the House today show that throughout the Western World there are concerns about the safety of the reactors on these ships.

"Ships run aground, as HMS Trafalgar, a nuclear-powered attack sub, did off Scotland in 2002. Sea trials following the repairs, planned for April this year, were then postponed because sailors had safety concerns. This was just the latest in a series of accidents that, along with ongoing worries about reactor welds and cooling pipes leakages, have kept nuclear submarines out of all British commercial ports, including London, since the early 1990s.

"Nuclear ships also make tempting targets for terrorists. After the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole in Aden, the US Navy banned its own nuclear-propelled ships from New York and several other major American ports. The Americans recognise the risks but want to send the ships to our ports but not theirs. National is seemingly more in favour of nuclear port visits than even the Bush Administration!

"The risk to the public from an accident with a nuclear ship is real enough for the Southampton City Council and the UK Ministry of Defence to deliver a pamphlet, which I tabled in the House today, to all residents within two kilometres of the Southampton naval base. It instructs people that, in the event of such an accident, they should leave their children at school, seal themselves inside a building and take iodine tablets. Do New Zealanders really want to see such warnings having to be issued here just so our business elite can get back on side with the US and UK governments and their military industrial complex? Is having to stockpile iodine tablets really consistent with the clean green image that New Zealanders are so proud of?

"No one will insure commercial nuclear-propelled ships, demonstrating the market's view on the risk of such ships, the very same market that the Nats worship.

"Why change our internationally applauded nuclear-free law unless you intend to make it easier to let these ships in? A policy alone carries no weight at all and can easily be swept aside when National's Washington masters put the heat on. Its time Don Brash stopped playing the New Zealand public for fools with his nuclear smoke and mirror routine," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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