Nick Smith says ‘let them eat yellowcake!’

I find Question Time the scariest part of being an MP. You never know what the Minister will say in reply – but I was astounded what Environment Minister Nick Smith, said in response to my questions around uranium and plutonium today.

He revealed that since the 1970s radioactive uranium ore concentrate has been passing through New Zealand waters and Ports without successive Government’s even being aware till March this year. Were there any standards regarding the handling of radioactive shipments adhered to over the last twenty years or were we just lucky?

Smith tried to downplay the risks by saying that a New Zealander would have to eat yellowcake to be adversely affected.

I’ve always said the risks to the health and environment of New Zealanders aren’t massive, but the principle is that nuclear free New Zealand should not be part of the nuclear supply chain.

The extraction and end use of uranium pose enormous ethical questions for NZ. We don’t say that as long as a nuclear bomb isn’t detonated in NZ, it can be brought into NZ, so why would we say that as long as uranium is kept in drums on a ship, can it be brought to NZ.

The extraction of uranium has caused enormous health and political problems for Australia. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) in Queensland and the Northern Territory is banning its members from working on uranium mines or within the nuclear energy industry. They call it the asbestos of the 21st centuary and site the health risks it poses on its workers.

Nick Smith attempted to guarantee that this uranium would not be used for weapons. There is vast literature illustrating that there is just no way to make such a guarantee. Even where Australian uranium is used exclusively for nuclear power generation, it is freeing the supply for nuclear weapons. Madame Fu Ying, China’s former ambassador to Australia, told a Melbourne Mining Club luncheon in December 2005 that China has insufficient uranium for both its civil and military nuclear programs. And a Taipei Times editorial in 2006 stated that  “Whether or not Aussie uranium goes directly into Chinese warheads — or whether it is used in power stations in lieu of uranium that goes into Chinese warheads — makes little difference.”

This is a distinction that Nick Smith failed to grasp today as he fervently went on about New Zealand’s health and ignored the responsibility New Zealand had as part of the supply chain of this incredibly destructive material.

I also revealed to the Government that in May the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Heron carrying Mixed Oxide radioactive plutonium possibly passed through our waters without our Government even knowing. I think this is unacceptable.

Nick Smith is undermining the blood sweat and tears of Kiwis in the 1980s that fought bravely to entrench New Zealand’s nuclear free status on the world stage.

I believe New Zealanders do not want to support the nuclear industry by allowing radioactive uranium ore concentrate to be shipped through our ports. There is a Facebook group for those who would like to keep up to date with this campaign.

In my opinion Nick Smith has embarrassed us all in front world leaders at the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Christchurch today.

19 Comments Posted

  1. I know, to ensure we remain nuclear free, ban all imports of possibly hazerdous radioactive material. Let’s start with material used for X ray machines and radiotherapy, we can move on to radioactive dyes later. I suppose alternate therapies will be ideal to take there places.

  2. Long gone Toad but rumoured set to rise again when the climate is right.
    He’s a real wind-up and creates a storm whenever he expresses himself. There are those who thought that Fulton was the thieving vandal who felled Ogon! There is some truth in that, Certainly it was a dyed-in-the-wool Nat wot dun it, according to the police. A second try at a burn is planned for Saturday night, with the resurrection of the wooden man.


    I can assure you Toad; Nick Smith is not acting as his own man we could narrow the field here, I could put forward my hypothesis.

    How about (1) The Business Round Table (2)Central Plains Water and (3)Fonterre Dairy Corporation or (4) one of Mr. Hubbards Enterprises.

    As for New Zealand hosting a forum for the supplyers of nuclear material is, in my view absolutely unacceptable and flies in the face of our non nuclear proliferation stand.

    Furthermore I suspect that this is deliberate and this among many other anti environmental policies of this government that are contary to Mr. Keys pre election greenwash; the NAT/ACT goveernment have proven themselves to be ANTI-GREEN!

  4. The bigger question, ‘fly, is “who owns Nick Smith?”

    BTW, good to see you are still hanging in here, ‘fly, and have not undergone a total metamorphosis into your alter ego who has a more, um, conservative approach to Green politics.

    Oh, and can you tell me, ‘fly, whatever became of the farmers’ hero Fulton Long? He’s from down your way, isn’t he?

  5. Oliver1,

    Kinda got owned there Gareth

    What? Nick Smith used insulting answers. Is that owning someone? Nick Smith avoided many of the questions. Is that owning someone? Nick Smith apparently didn’t get the point that having NZ as part of the supply chain for technologies that it doesn’t support is hypocritical. Is that owning someone? I think not.

  6. Uranium as a fuel and Nuclear Weapons are intimately connected, as is the nuclear waste legacy.

    It is because the by-products of using uranium in energy production can be used for weapons production that the development of uranium was subsidised over thorium.

    It is because energy and weapons go together that there are security issues with Nth Korea and Iran developing Nuclear energy.

    It is because of the weapons co-product that uranium was developed as a fuel in the first place.

  7. Kevin Hague says “(assuming the Minister is correct that none of this Uranium is ever used in weapons it is nonetheless true that using this Uranium for nuclear power generation means that other Uranium can be used for other purposes)”.

    This arguement is extraodrinarily tenuous. You could more logically say that because this uranium is used for power generation, there is even less available for military purposes.

    This arguement is only a side show anyway. Your other points are valid, but surely the more important question is WHY does it even NEED to transit via NZ ports in the first place, as it has done for 40 years?

  8. @photonz – the reason I commented about the curious juxtaposition of when John key and Nick Smith say they first knew about the shipments is not because I thought this was the main issue. Sorry if that was confusing.

    The main issue for me is that New Zealand is playing a role in facilitating at least the nuclear power industry, and, arguably, the nuclear arms industry (assuming the Minister is correct that none of this Uranium is ever used in weapons it is nonetheless true that using this Uranium for nuclear power generation means that other Uranium can be used for other purposes). Our nuclear-free legislation only makes it illegal to assist the nuclear weapons industry, but there is no question in my mind that most New Zealanders also expect that same principle to apply to the nuclear power industry, and would not approve of these shipments transiting through New Zealand ports. The Plutonium shipment through our waters also raises major issues, and certainly would not be supported.

    Which is why I’m also interested in who knew what, when: given the widespread public concern, shouldn’t there have been some opportunity for New Zealanders to have a say in whether or not these ships could come here? So how was it decided that this wouldn’t occur? And how might it transpire that the Prime Minister is told about this programme (presumably because of its political and public sensitivity) but neither he nor officials told the Environment Minister? Too sensitive for him, or (astonishingly) not considered important enough? And is this even credible?

    So you see I am interested in trying to expose the machinery by which the public was excluded from being involved in these issues. I’m pretty sure that the public response would have been profound discomfort.

    And Oliver, Gareth was not in any way “owned” by Nick Smith. Those who were owned were those who bought his patronising red herrings

  9. expecting honesty from the Gnats Kev?
    i don’t think they address questions adequately
    God bless all hearts of the hopefull

  10. “In my opinion Nick Smith has embarrassed us all in front world leaders at the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Christchurch today.”

    Actually I think that they would be quite chuffed. I still don’t understand why we are hosting them…as a Nuclear free nation why are we hosting the people who make the bombs and energy… if we are not users then why are we allowed to participate…ridiculous..

  11. So the big question is….”Why does it have to come to NZ ports?”

    What’s the big questions for Greens? “Can we find a discrepency between when Nick Smith and John Key found out about it?”(forget that it’s been going on forty years).

    Clearly the top priority is scoring points – who cares about the uranium.

  12. Well that’s interesting. In Parliament today Smith definitely said that he was first told of these shipments in March. But on TV3 news just now John Key said he had been surprised to learn of them when he first became Prime Minister. So we are expected to believe that the Prime Minister has know about them since November 2008 but didn’t think to mention it to his Environment Minister?

    And was telling the PM post election 2008 a new practice (for some hard-to-fathom reason) or did Helen Clark also know about them, and apparently chose not to let Phil Goff, at least, know about them?

  13. They were really good questions Gareth. he was saying if the physical risk isn’t high then it’s ok, and if the uranium isn’t being used in weapons it’s ok, but both of those miss the point that our position has always been about leadership on both weapons and fission power, and that leadership requires that we play no part in or facilitate the industries in any way.

    What I also thought was extraordinary was his contention that it was okay for us to play this role in the nuclear supply chain for 20 years, but for officials not to have mentioned it to ministers until March this year! His expectations of officials are clearly rather different to those I would have.

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