Editorials 13 April 2010

April 13th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald warms up on nukes:

Who would have thought even a few short years ago that the New Zealand Prime Minister would be on the guest list for the nuclear security summit hosted by the President of the United States in Washington? John Key’s presence offers further evidence that the rift of the 1980s is all but mended. It may be too soon for a resumption of visits to New Zealand ports by American warships, but there is an undoubted resonance between this country’s law and President Barack Obama’s long-time commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.

Indeed. And while I doubt we will ever rid the world of nuclear weapons, I will be glad to see a lot less of them.

A constant grievance of non-nuclear nations has been that, while the non-proliferation treaty denied them the right to acquire nuclear arms, those countries with such weaponry seemed to regard its retention as their right. The importance of President Obama’s initiatives, and those of Russia, is that they illustrate a change of attitude by the pair, which possess more than 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons between them. Their move towards disarmament provides, in turn, a greater moral authority to address examples of proliferation, real and potential, whether the likes of Iran’s nuclear programme or nuclear weaponry becoming part of the arsenal of terrorists.

In this area, I think Obama’s policies have been sound, It is hard to preach restraint to the rest of the world, while not doing anything to reduce your own arsenal.

President Obama said last week that nuclear terrorism posed a graver threat than the risk of war between nuclear nations. He is undoubtedly right, and the crafting of a pact to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of groups like al Qaeda will be a focus in Washington.

Stopping Iran from developing them would be a good start to that.

The Press also talks nuclear, but ore on ships:

Passage of the nuclear-free legislation in 1987 marked New Zealand as a nation prepared to take an independent stance on the world stage.

This stand did win friends, especially in Europe, but it also came at a cost. It led to a defence freeze with the United States, including an end to US navy ship visits. But with Prime Minister John Key now attending a nuclear summit in Washington, it is inevitable that a resumption of visits should be mooted, in this case by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, an architect of the nuclear-free law.

Renewed visits by US navy vessels would be a logical step in the thawing of the defence freeze with our former ally and would not require a change to the present anti-nuclear law.

Yep. No law change needed. Of course the Greens will still protest it, but they protest almost everything about the US.

It is possible that the nuclear propulsion issue will be revisited in the future. But this is likely to be in the context of nuclear power generation, especially if other electricity sources, such as hydro and wind turbines, continue to be beset by opposition to their location, and the security of power supply is seriously threatened.

Actually nuclear power is not particularly practical for New Zealand, but I agree it should be an option. Much better than coal!

The Dominion Post focuses on :

Justice,” a former lord chief justice of England said, “should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

Manifestly that has not been the case in the long-running, and convoluted, dispute between the former Wool Board and a group of woolgrowers that found its way to the Court of Appeal in 2007.

One of the judges who considered the case, Bill Wilson, was a close friend and business partner of Wool Board counsel Alan Galbraith, QC. Justice Wilson disclosed their shared ownership of a racehorse or racehorses to counsel for the woolgrowers and, if his recollections are accurate, their shared ownership of a horse stud. But for reasons that are now presumably costing him a great deal of sleep, he did not disclose that he owed Mr Galbraith almost $250,000. Nor did he disclose the debt to colleagues in the Supreme Court when they considered an appeal from the growers in March last year. In fact, he led the court to believe he was not beholden to Mr Galbraith in any way. …

Justice Wilson is a well-liked and well-regarded legal practitioner who has added a dose of common sense to the bench. However, in this instance his judgment has failed him completely.

By neglecting to fully inform the growers’ counsel of his links with Mr Galbraith, he has not only damaged his own reputation, but that of the highest court in the land.

The operation of the justice system relies upon public confidence in those who administer it. New Zealand is a small country. Inevitably, there will be friendships between judges and lawyers, and lawyers and lawyers. The public knows that lawyers who one day are verbally brawling in court may the next be arguing in support of each other and that, on other occasions, they may be observed enjoying each other’s company in social settings.

That is reasonable. Members of the legal profession are not expected to carry professional enmities over to private life and judges are not expected to sever all personal ties on being elevated to the bench. However, for public trust in the system to be maintained, all conflicts and potential conflicts of interest have to be properly disclosed.

And that lack of disclosure, especially to his Supreme Court colleagues, may extract a heavy price.

But such processes take time. In the meantime, the reputation of the judiciary is being compromised.

At the very least Justice Wilson should have stepped aside from his duties, when the case was referred to the judicial commissioner. When he did not do so, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias should have stood him down.

I disagree. A mere investigation by the JCC should not require a Judge to stand down. However if the JCC recommends a complaints panel be established, then a stand down would be appropriate.

And the ODT also talks nuclear:

A year ago, President Obama announced his plans for a world without nuclear weapons, expressing a hope rather than any rational expectation, but nevertheless a plea for disarmament that was widely welcomed.

This week he signed the “New Start” treaty with Russia, under which both powers will reduce their nuclear arsenals, while still deploying 1550 warheads each. …

Perhaps the true significance of these measures is to compare the situation with that which existed before 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed: at that time each side deployed more than 20,000 strategic warheads.

I remember those days well. At school we saw films about nuclear war, and around half of my generation though a global nuclear war was likely in our life time.

The collapse of the Soviet Empire was a wonderful thing.

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28 Responses to “Editorials 13 April 2010”

  1. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “In this area, I think Obama’s policies have been sound, It is hard to preach restraint to the rest of the world, while not doing anything to reduce your own arsenal.”

    Good grief.. weakening the defence resources of the US is going to make the world a safer place?/??

    For whom???

    The Chinese generals perhaps, but not any of the free world.

    When are you joining Keith Locke and the rest of the mad peaceniks in the Greens??

    [DPF: The US has superior military strength with conventional weapons, and I support keeping it that way. But there are vastly more nuclear weapons that needed, and a reduction is a good thing. China has only 80 so US going from 2,500 to 1800 is not going to change the balance of power]

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  2. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    If John Key had a milligram of political nouse he’d steer well clear of this walking disaster area. The Kenyan is going to go down big time and those who he made his allies will be tarred by this association.

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  3. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Actually nuclear power is not particularly practical for New Zealand, but I agree it should be an option. Much better than coal!

    Oh I just love it when someone makes a general non-specific statement, why do you think it is not particularly practical? If you are thinking size is the problem, then ask yourself how big the reactor is in a USN Carrier.

    [DPF: At a smaller size, nuclear is not that cost effective and at a larger size, we would be too reliant one one plant. Also finding a location well away from an earthquake faultline]

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  4. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    The great thing about nuclear weapons has been that the nations who have them have been too afraid to use them, and in alot of instances too afraid to start a war against a nuclear nation in fear of retaliation. In my mind the mere presence of nuclear weapons and the mutual policy of MAD between the US and the Soviets forced the leaders since WW2 to back away from the brink. The only problem has ever been when a country obtains the weapon that is not afraid to use them.

    I wonder how many wars would have happened if the world never knew the destructive power of the atomic bomb?

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  5. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    DPF: Of course the Greens will still protest it, but they protest almost everything about the US.

    Not necessarily – read Keith Locke’s blog post on this yesterday:

    Whether it is desirable to have US warships visit New Zealand is not something to be answered with a straight yes or no. The Greens are in favour of Pacific navies – supported by surveillance aircraft – helping Pacific countries protect their fisheries from poaching. There is nothing wrong with American ships dedicated to this task visiting New Zealand ports. There might also be something New Zealand can learn from their coastguard ships.

    However, I think it is good that we haven’t had any visits from big US combat ships these last 25 years. It means we are less associated with the purposes they are put – such as helping in the invasion of Iraq; or more recently being platforms from which American can launch strikes in places like Somalia or Yemen – quite contrary to international law. We benefit from not being seen as a ‘deputy sheriff’ for the US, as Australia is. While we don’t need a formal ban on such warships visiting New Zealand, it is not advisable to invite them here.

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  6. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Oops, bum link and too late to edit – was meant to be http://blog.greens.org.nz/2010/04/12/on-palmer-and-us-warships/

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  7. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    I’m with Bevan. It is not correct that nuclear is not practical in NZ, at least in a technical sense. The usual objections given are:
    – that nuclear generators don’t turn on and off – so you need something to do with the power when it isn’t in demand. There are a range of options, including pumping hydro back uphill, smelting aluminium, splitting hydrogen from water. I’m also not convinced that there isn’t enough baseload in NZ to consume all the power even in the middle of the night – the hydro and fossil fuel stations can be turned off

    – that they’re too big. This is also untrue, you can currently get modules around the 500MW mark, a station with 4 modules would be around 2 GW, which isn’t too big. New technology in the pipeline will reduce the minimum substantially – probably to around 250-500 MW

    – that we don’t have the nuclear industry to maintain it. That isn’t really true anymore either – you can get a fully maintained solution from the manufacturer. And, of course, if you don’t start somewhere you’ll never come in.

    – the risk of earthquakes creating catastrophic failure. As opposed, of course, to the risk of earthquake in Japan, who have lots of the things. This is an overstated risk – remember these stations are built to contain radiation and superheated water. They can easily be designed to withstand earthquakes. Also, the newer designs are passively safe (unlike Chernobyl or Three Mile Island) – loss of coolant causes them to turn off, rather than to have a runaway reaction.

    The only real objection is NIMBY-ism. Which is a real problem, but we need to get these NIMBYs to explain whether they’d like to still be connected to the National Grid, and if so, exactly what sort of power they’d like – fossil fuel (carbon emissions), hydro (don’t dam our rivers), geothermal (limited availability, and ruins beautiful geothermal areas), wind turbines (kill the birds, make noise, unreliable), solar (all those awful chemicals in making the cells, and they cover a lot of land). I mean really, what’s it gonna be?

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  8. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias should have stood him down.

    Yeah, the solution to having one Supreme Court Judge break some rules is to have the Chief Justice break some rules as well… from where exactly would she derive the power to stand Justice Wilson down?

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  9. serge (108 comments) says:

    Ideologies never worked, neither in religion nor in politics “isms” of any sort have not worked, that is why america is on its way out, Hussein Obama’s socialism is destroying a society originally based on a sound constitution an practical democratic principles which include free enterprise and freedom of choice ( I am not referring to abortion which I don not approve of).

    As for Prime Minister Key, he runs with the hares and hunts with the hounds, I am very dissapointed in him.

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  10. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    The only real objection is NIMBY-ism. Which is a real problem, but we need to get these NIMBYs to explain whether they’d like to still be connected to the National Grid, and if so, exactly what sort of power they’d like

    Maybe micro-generation? Solar panels on everyone’s roofs, small wind turbines on others, double-glazed windows, energy-saving lightbulbs, and low-flow hot water something-or-others? But yes, NIMBYism is a bit of a problem.

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  11. wreck1080 (3,820 comments) says:

    I remember as a kid, with all the nuclear war movies , thinking that nuclear war was inevitable (remember…do you want to play a game…)

    While I do not think there will be an all-out war, I think there is a high probability that a bomb will be let off in a major western city by terrorists. All it takes is a rogue scientist……..

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  12. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    Graeme – perhaps. But economically speaking, micro-generation is very inefficient. 1 MW from a centralised solar plant is far less expensive than 1MW sprinkled around in lots of 2 KW units on everyone’s roof. It’s akin to arguing that everyone should have a sheep in their back yard in case they want a Sunday roast. But yes, it would get around the NIMBYism, as having your own sheep in your back yard is much more palatable than agreeing to a whole sheep farm just over the hill.

    Western society has been moving away from self sufficiency, maybe moving back towards it would require a bunch of people to reassess their positions – it’s much easier to have an opinion on what “they” should do when it doesn’t impact you – when you’re having an opinion on what you personally should do, and the consequences include cold showers all week because you have no power…..well, it kind of focuses the mind a bit.

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  13. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    [DPF: At a smaller size, nuclear is not that cost effective and at a larger size, we would be too reliant one one plant. Also finding a location well away from an earthquake faultline]

    Thanks for clarifying, to me the only concern I would have would be the earthquake factor. I dont buy the size thing, a reactor is not either very very large, or very very small – and I recall the Swedes have been operating vast amounts of moderately sized reactors for some time.

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  14. backster (2,124 comments) says:

    Obama is all talkee and no doee and the enemies of the US now realise this. I agree with Redbaiter that this type of talkfest displays lack of resolution on the part of the West. On what basis would any of these Nations actually believe the Other?

    As for the Supreme Court if the facts on ‘Kiwifirst’ website are correct then a very sorry, maybe even corrupt state of affairs seems to exist. This Court with it’s $80 million edifice designed at great cost so that the passing Public may view Justice in Action has only been in action 35 days first year 29 days second year and 22 days last year. No wonder the Judicial elite have time on their hands to indulge in the Sport of Kings.

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  15. Andrew W (1,629 comments) says:

    I agree with Paul and Bevan, I think the reason that plants tend to be large is that Big makes sense (1) in large countries with Big demand and (2) when your facing NIMBYism it makes sense to have as few political battles as possible by building a few big rather than many small plants, and there’s also the advantage of less sites to worry over the security of.

    Also if we were to, one way or another, electrify road transport, that would create enough demand to consume the output of several reactors by itself.

    I doubt earthquakes need be that big a worry, nuclear plants are built pretty solidly.

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  16. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    [DPF: The US has superior military strength with conventional weapons, and I support keeping it that way. But there are vastly more nuclear weapons that needed, and a reduction is a good thing. China has only 80 so US going from 2,500 to 1800 is not going to change the balance of power]

    The figures:

    [Type/China total/US Total]

    Combat Aircraft / 2,200 / 4,601
    Tanks / 8,000 / 7,000
    Submarines / 60 / 72
    Combat Troops / 1,600,000 / 650,000

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China

    I think the combat aircraft figures are misleading, I’m sure PRC has far more (although far lower tech too) aircraft than that listed. Also not sure what they have classed as a combat aircraft, ie: support vs offensive AC.

    Unfortunately it doesnt show Naval capacity – but at the moment, the USN offensive fleet size seems to be contracting and the PRC Naval fleet is expanding.

    Also, saying the US has X,000 amount of warheads, yet China only has X0 is misleading as the better comparison is to Russia’s arsenal which is far greater in warhead numbers than the US – but admittedly its in context of the reply to Redbaiter.

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  17. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Nuclear stockpile figures – declared nuclear powers & NPT signatories:

    Country Active Total
    Russia 4,650 12,000
    US 2,626 9,400
    France 300 300
    China 180 240
    UK 165 185

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons

    Good graph:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_and_USSR_nuclear_stockpiles.svg

    I can’t believe the USSR had 45,000 warheads!

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  18. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    Redbaiter (9414) Says:
    April 13th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Good grief.. weakening the defence resources of the US is going to make the world a safer place?/??

    For whom???

    The Chinese generals perhaps, but not any of the free world.
    ***********************************

    The trick is once you get the US/Russian stock piles down to the right level you then introduce an anti ballistic missile ‘sheild’, thus rendering ICBM’s obsolescent and their logical replacements, bombers and cruise missiles, are also things that can be readily shot down. China’s stockpile simply loses most of its deterrent value vs the US at that point, they don’t have all that many that can threaten the US with (which is why they, plus Iran and Russia, really hate the idea of a ballistic missile shield, they cannot try nuclear blackmail anymore, and the technological inadequacy of their armed forces become even more apparent).

    As you can see the strategic level of warfare can be shaped to reduce the destruction nations can cause each other. Of course it also means that conventional forces must be very well funded because the probability of war has just gone up significantly as the threshold, as well as when and how, for nuclear weapons use has just been raised, as its that much more difficult to use them effectively.

    Incidentally, Singapore is putting in such a system, albeit a short range tactical one, they helped pay for along with Israel. Its called ‘Irondome’ iirc.

    The question one should ask is why are the Keith Locke’s of this world not protesting China’s rapid acquisition of conventional military muscle, including the ability to project it far beyond their shores?

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  19. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    Bevan (2064) Says:
    April 13th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    The figures:
    ***************************

    Don’t rely to much on simple figures, they are misleading. Large amounts of the Chinese arsenal is simple warhead bait, and they still lack effective command and control facilities, to say nothing of training at all levels. Although they are rapidly changing this situation, they have along way to go.

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  20. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    DPF
    ***********

    If NZ want to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel, electricity use will, must, go up by leaps and bounds and will continue to do so as long as we wish to maintain adequate standards of living. Solar panels are fine for the home, and are to be encouraged, but if you want to run industry and charge everyones electric/hydrogen powered car you need a lot of power, and that wont come from a windmill on the hill alone.

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  21. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Don’t rely to much on simple figures, they are misleading.

    Oh I agree, the figures I refenced are general figures only and do not show both forces offensive capability: as in China’s 1,000+ F-7 Mig21 clones are nowhere near as capable as the US’s 400+ BVR capable F16′s – not counting other assets of course. But I was only offering a broad comparison, give me a few days off work and I could offer a far better breakdown of their assets and forces.

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  22. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    I agree that there may be an oversupply of nooklear weaponry (even though Red China is spending like a drunken sailor adding to its nuclear submarine fleet) but that is not the whole issue, and not I think what is important.

    Ronald Reagan did not defeat the Soviet Union by adopting a passive posture. Anyone who thinks Obama’s mental subjugation to the enemies of the west is not something that is celebrated as a substantial strategic victory in some quarters has no real knowledge of world politics.

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  23. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    Redbaiter (9422) Says:
    April 13th, 2010 at 5:49 pm
    I agree that there may be an oversupply of nooklear weaponry (even though Red China is spending like a drunken sailor adding to its nuclear submarine fleet) but that is not the whole issue, and not I think what is important.

    Ronald Reagan did not defeat the Soviet Union by adopting a passive posture. Anyone who thinks Obama’s mental subjugation to the enemies of the west is not something that is celebrated as a substantial strategic victory in some quarters has no real knowledge of world politics.
    *********************************

    Your right, it is about ‘attitude’, one does not lie down to the dictators, however we are not living in the 80′s either, what worked then will not necessarily work now especially as the likes of China do not show signs of committing metaphorical suicide like the old USSR did. With the world becoming more multi polar and with technology eventually rendering things like ICBM’s obsolescent, we may have to adopt methods more akin to the 18th/19th centuries to deal with the dictators. This is neither bad nor good, its just something we haven’t done in a while.

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  24. Shunda barunda (2,973 comments) says:

    “I remember those days well. At school we saw films about nuclear war, and around half of my generation though a global nuclear war was likely in our life time.”

    Well I was younger and I think it was Labours election campaign that scared the crap out of me (the one with all the bombs going off on the tele) followed by the controversial made for tv movie “the day after tomorrow”.
    I was terrified as a kid, as like you said people really thought it was going to happen. Still, I guess it would have been a lot worse for kids in the northern hemisphere, though somebody told me that NZ was actually targeted as well, is that true?

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  25. salt (130 comments) says:

    was anyone else subjected to “Threads” at school? God that movie freaked my thirteen-year-old self out.

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  26. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    Shunda barunda (1107) Says:
    April 13th, 2010 at 7:09 pm
    Still, I guess it would have been a lot worse for kids in the northern hemisphere, though somebody told me that NZ was actually targeted as well, is that true?
    *******************************

    The left will rabbit on about us being a target because at one point we didn’t worry and learned to love the bomb, but unless they have been reading Soviet operational plans of the last forty odd years, I don’t think they know diddly.
    Fact is that no one knows except the Russians, and they aint telling.

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  27. Crusader (295 comments) says:

    Actually nuclear power is not particularly practical for New Zealand, but I agree it should be an option. Much better than coal!

    How is nuclear better than coal?
    Nuclear power would be hideously expensive to set up, and of course to deal with the resultant waste.
    Coal is technology and expertise which we already have, and at least it is mined here, thus better for our terms of trade.

    Come on DPF, don’t tell me you buy into that Kyoto/IPCC/catastrophic AGW/”CO2 is a pollutant” nonsense?

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  28. Dazzaman (1,132 comments) says:

    Actually nuclear power is not particularly practical for New Zealand, but I agree it should be an option. Much better than coal!

    What’s wrong with coal? I know, I know…all of the environmental issues, fossil-fuel burning, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. Coal fired power stations are pretty clean these days & we have plenty of it. Now that’s wastage, not to use it extensively for the sake of an unproven, highly spurious…hypothesis.

    And thank you PaulL, the first point you made addresses the one truly valid objection to Nuclear power use in NZ.

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