New Zealand attitudes warm

14 April 2008

A recent poll has shown that New Zealand citizens remain averse to nuclear power - although support reached 19% overall, and up to 30% in one region.


Nuclear power was chosen by 19% of respondents as among the best options for New Zealand in the next ten years. Wind came top with 77%, and falling between the two were large- and small-scale hydro, geothermal and solar.


The data came from a Shape NZ poll conducted online between 26 February and 31 March. Some 3546 people took part.


New Zealanders' least favourite power technologies in the popularity stakes were coal and gas, which were chosen by just 8% and 10% respectively. The anti-fossil sentiment was confimed by the 58% of people that said they supported or strongly supported government moves to ban the construction of coal- and gas-fired baseload power plants for the next ten years.


Currently the mix of electricity generation in the country is dominated by hydro, which accounts for about 55% of production, according to International Energy Agency statistics. In 2006 gas provided 22%; coal, 13%; geothermal, 7%; and wind power less than 2%.


Nuclear power found its strongest support in the country's cities. In the largest, Auckland, 18% supported nuclear, while in nearby Manukau City the figure was 30%. The capital, Wellington, saw support rates of 17%, while levels reached 19% in Christchurch, 18% in North Shore, 14% in Waitakere, 19% in Dunedin and 20% in Hamilton.


There was support for exporting the country's overall anti-nuclear stance to other countries by way of future emissions trading arrangements. Even though warned that it could cause New Zealand companies to pay more for emissions credits, 43% said the country should not trade in credits 'saved' by other countries that built nuclear power plants to replace fossil-burning plants.



'Nuclear free' New Zealand


Anti-nuclear feelings grew in New Zealand during the Cold War period, when atomic weapons were tested in the Pacific Ocean and the docking of nuclear-powered US Navy ships caused protest. In 1984 nuclear powered vessels were barred and three years later the country passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act


Although these measures were aimed at military uses of nuclear energy and do not prohibit civilian uses such as power generation or research, no facilities for those exist in New Zealand.


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