Science Express – Mad on Radium: New Zealand in the Atomic Age 

Thursday 6 September 2012,  6.30pm–8pm
Level 4, Espresso
Free entry

In this month’s Science Express, science writer Rebecca Priestleytalks about New Zealand’s little-known love affair with nuclear science and technology.

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Mad on Radium: New Zealand in the Atomic Age

New Zealand is known around the world for its nuclear-free stance – banning US nuclear ship visits, saying no to nuclear power, selling the country as clean, green, and nuclear free. But New Zealand was once as excited about the dawning atomic age as any other nation. 

In her new book, Mad on Radium, published by Auckland University Press this month, Rebecca Priestley unfolds the story of 'nuclear New Zealand', a country with much enthusiasm for nuclear science and technology.

From radioactive water 'therapy' at the Rotorua Bathhouse (four to six glasses a day were recommended) to shoe-fitting x-ray machines, from uranium prospecting on the West Coast to plans for a nuclear power station on the Kaipara Harbour, scientists, medical professionals, and the public keenly embraced nuclear technology. 

In the late 1970s, New Zealand's decisions not to mine uranium and not to build a nuclear power station were economic, not ideological. New Zealand's policy is now against nuclear power and prohibits prospecting for uranium, but our nuclear-free legislation, introduced in 1987, is about nuclear weapons, not nuclear power.

How will we respond as a nation if economic – and even environmental – arguments turn in favour of nuclear power and even mining our West Coast deposits of radioactive rock?

Science Express @ Te Papa