An interesting article by former Labour Cabinet Minister on the breakup of ANZUS. He remarks that New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation was now sustained by “nothing more than historical symbolism and popular nostalgia”.
I find it hard to disagree with this when you consider the facts.
1) Only US subs have nuclear missiles on them anymore
2) No ships in the US fleet apart from aircraft carriers or subs are nuclear powered anymore
3) The US nuclear subs don’t tend to really visit very often, as their job is to stay out of sight, and those with nuclear weapons on board would still not be eligible to visit, if we amended the law to allow power but not weapons
4) US Aircraft carriers tend to be pretty busy and don’t come down this part of the world very often, and many of them wouldn’t fit into our harbours anyway!
So what exactly are we banning again? If we amended the legislation to remove the ban on nuclear powered ships (and hence remove a major thorn in our relationship with our allies) we would probably have such a ship visit at best once every forty years or so.
For those not convinced, try looking at it another way. If we didn’t have such a ban in place, and someone today proposed a ban on nuclear powered ships visiting NZ, it would get laughed away as there are basically no ships to ban.
Also worth remembering the entire US fleet lets out less radiation in a year than Auckland Hospital does in a day IIRC.