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Greens show ignorance of nuclear technology

For immediate release:
The New Zealand
Climate Science Coalition


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Media release (immediate) 31 October 2006

Green Party shows its ignorance of nuclear technology

The Green Party's call for the New Zealand Super Fund to end its investments in uranium mining demonstrates, more than anything, their ignorance of nuclear technology, according to Bryan Leyland, chairman of the economic panel of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. "Many other groups that believe in dangerous man-made global warming also have enough sense to realize that nuclear power offers the lowest-cost, safest and most environmentally friendly way of making a dramatic reduction in the emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning," he said.

"They claim that nuclear power is 'unsustainable given the dangers of a Chernobyl type meltdown.' Arguing against modern nuclear power stations because one badly operated power station failed when its protective devices were shut off and without secondary containment, is the same as arguing that we should not consider modern cruise liners because the Titanic did not have radar, or opposing modern cars because a model T Ford wasn't crash tested and didn't have seat belts.

"It is not correct that there is no known way of dismantling old reactors. Last year I was in Scotland talking to a group of engineers who were doing just that," said Mr Leyland. "The Forsmark reactors did not have a 'near meltdown'. The official report says: 'The unit's automatic responses to the electrical disturbance resulted in reactor scram with subsequent function of the safety systems in two out of four subdivisions. The cooling of the shutdown core was guaranteed during the whole event sequence.' Doesn't sound like a near meltdown to me. The changes that were made as a result of this incident were related to the electrical system not the reactors themselves. Both units went back into service this month.

"The claim that 'nuclear energy is intimately connected to nuclear weapons' is not correct. Nuclear power stations burn uranium with low enrichment which cannot be used for nuclear weapons. What nuclear power stations can do - and I would have thought that the Green Party would be strongly in favour of this - is burn weapons grade plutonium. There are more than 200 tons of weapons grade plutonium in storage that must be a prime target for terrorists. The best way of getting rid of it is to burn it in a nuclear power station. Future nuclear power stations will probably use thorium - which is not suitable for making nuclear weapons - instead of uranium. Surely rational Green Party would favour this option.

"This government is opposed to nuclear power and weapons only because, as David Lange once said to me 'Cabinet could not understand that there is a difference between a nuclear bomb and a nuclear reactor,'" said Mr Leyland.

ENDS

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