Nuclear-free zone

[noo-klee-er-free, nyoo- or, by metathesis, -kyuh-ler-]
A nuclear-free zone is an area where nuclear weapons (see Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone) and/or nuclear power is banned. The specific ramifications of these depend on the locale in question.

Many local authorities worldwide have declared themselves "nuclear-free". However, this label is largely symbolic, since most local authorities would be powerless to stop the construction of a nuclear plant if one was planned for the area. In the case of New Zealand its status as a nuclear-free zone is not symbolic but enshrined in the nation's legislation. New Zealand was the first Western-allied nation to legislate towards a nuclear free zone, effectively renouncing the nuclear deterrent.

Nuclear-free zone by geographical areas


Austria is a nuclear free zone, because when a nuclear power station was built during the 1970s at Zwentendorf, Austria, its start-up was prevented by a popular vote in 1978.

Moreover, on July 9, 1997, the Austrian Parliament voted unanimously to maintain the country's anti-nuclear policy.


There is an active antinuclear movement in Australia, and the country has no nuclear weapons or nuclear power stations. However it has run a research nuclear reactor since 1958. (The original HiFAR reactor was replaced by the OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights, 40 km southwest of Sydney, in 2006.) Nuclear weapons have been tested in Australia at Maralinga, Emu Field and the Monte Bello Islands.

Australia also mines and sells a lot of uranium ore. Nuclear waste dumps have been proposed in Western Australia and South Australia.


Vancouver is a nuclear weapons free city. Victoria, British Columbia also is nuclear weapons free city. This has caused problems as nearby Esquimalt houses CFB Esquimalt, Canada's Pacific naval base and is used frequently by the United States Navy. The USN routinely sends ships or aircraft carriers loaded with nuclear weapons to Esquimalt. As a result, the ships are forced to dock out of the city limits as not to violate the city by-laws. Red Deer, Alberta is also a nuclear weapons free city.

South Asia

Nuclear weapons were introduced into South Asia in the late 1970s with their surprise detonation at Pokhran by India near their border with Pakistan. The muted response by the international community caused great alarm within Pakistan itself. In the 1980s and 1990's, Pakistan had initiated several rounds of talks with arch-rival India to declare the region a nuclear free region and that both countries should give up their nuclear programs and re-direct the resources into more peaceful and economic dividents for the regions poor. The Pakistani government suggested that both nations agree to the mutual de-activation of their respective programs and the dissarming of nuclear warheards to bring to an end the arms race building up between the two nations. India refused the treaty and stalled on numerous talks. In 1998 India surprised the world again including its arch rival Pakistan by testing five weapons grade nuclear device near its border with Pakistan effectively sending the Pakistani government a clear indication of india's intentions in the region.


Though Japan does make widespread use of nuclear power plants, it holds to the tenets that nuclear weapons shall not be manufactured in, possessed by, or allowed entry into Japan. These tenets, known as the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, were first stated by Prime Minister Eisaku Satō in 1967, and were adopted as a parliamentary resolution in 1971, though they have never formally been entered into law.

These statements continue today to reflect the attitudes of both government and the general public, who remain staunchly opposed to the manufacture or use of nuclear weapons. The Japan Self-Defense Forces have never made any attempt to manufacture or otherwise obtain nuclear arms, and no nuclear weapons are known to have been introduced into the Japanese Home Islands since the end of World War II. However, while the United States does not maintain nuclear bases within its military installations on the Home Islands, it is believed to have done so in Okinawa, which remained under direct US control for twenty years following the end of the Occupation in 1952.

New Zealand

In 1984, Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987, territorial sea and land of New Zealand became nuclear-free zones.

The Act prohibits "entry into the internal waters of New Zealand 12 miles (22.2 km) radius by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power" and bans the dumping of radioactive waste within the nuclear-free zone, as well as prohibiting any New Zealand citizen or resident "to manufacture, acquire, possess, or have any control over any nuclear explosive device. Combined with the firm policy of the United States to "neither confirm nor deny" whether particular naval vessels carry nuclear weapons, the Act effectively bars these ships from entering New Zealand waters.

New Zealand's security treaty with the United States, ANZUS, did not mention nuclear deterrence and did not require unconditional port access. However, after New Zealand refused entry to the USS Buchanan, the United States government suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand, seeing New Zealand's effective rejection of United States Navy vessels as voiding the treaty. The Lange Labour government did not see their stance as incompatible with the treaty and sought a compromise for over two years before passing the Act. Support for the non-nuclear policy was bolstered by the perceived over-reaction of the United States and by the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by French spies while docked in Auckland. According to some commentators, the legislation was a milestone in New Zealand's development as a nation and seen as an important act of sovereignty, self-determination and cultural identity. New Zealand’s three decade anti-nuclear campaign is the only successful movement of its type in the world which resulted in the nation's nuclear-free zone status being enshrined in legislation.

Nordic countries

Nuclear weapons-free Nordic (Finn. Ydinaseeton Pohjola) was an initiative by the President of Finland Urho Kekkonen for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Nordic countries. The aim was to prevent the Nordic countries from becoming a nuclear battleground and a route for cruise missiles in the event of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and NATO. Nuclear energy is used in Finland and Sweden, however.

United Kingdom

The Nuclear Free Zone Movement in the United Kingdom was very strong in early 1980s, up to 200 local authorities including County councils, District councils and City councils such as the Greater London Council (GLC) (before its abolition) declared themselves to be 'nuclear free'. This was legally underpinned by Section 137 of the Local Government Act, which allowed local authorities to spend a small amount on whatever members considered was in the interest of their area or a part of their area.

Wales became 'nuclear free' on 23 February 1982 after Clwyd County Council declared itself 'nuclear free' and the Nuclear Free Wales Declaration was made.

The scale of the NFZ movement was the main reason for the cancellation of the national 'Hard Rock' civil defence exercise due to the non-cooperation of the NFZ authorities - this has historically been seen as a victory for the British Peace movement against the policies of Margaret Thatcher. The first 'Nuclear Free Zone' in the UK was Manchester City Council in 1980 - this still exists to this day. Generally, NFZs were predominantly Labour Party controlled Councils but Liberal Party and even a few Conservative Party Councillors were often active in this respect too.

United States

A number of cities in the United States established themselves as Nuclear-Free Zones in the 1980s.

One of the first in the country and most prominent is Takoma Park, Maryland, which was officially declared a nuclear-free zone in 1983 by then-mayor Sam Abbott. A citizen committee of the local city council continues to monitor city contracts. The city cannot hold contracts with any company associated with any aspect of nuclear weapons without a waiver from the citizen committee. In September 2005, Takoma Park took a stand against the transportation of high-level nuclear waste through the City. It voted to amend its Nuclear-Free Zone Ordinance to give its citizen committee responsibility to collect information and from this information and from consultations with individuals and organizations involved in the transportation of high-level nuclear waste, to advise the City on how to promote the safety and welfare of its citizens from harmful exposure to high-level nuclear waste. For more on Takoma Park's nuclear-free history see:

Another well-known nuclear-free community is Berkeley, California, whose citizens passed the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act in 1986 which allows the city to levy fines for nuclear weapons-related activity and to boycott companies involved in the United States nuclear infrastructure. The City of Berkeley has posted signs at each of its borders proclaiming its nuclear free status, which specifies possible fines for such activities within its borders. This is particularly ironic considering that the University of California, Berkeley, is deeply involved in the history of nuclear weapons, and the University of California system until recently managed operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a U.S. nuclear weapons design laboratory, and continues to manage the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As well, at the time of the passage of the act, the University operated a nuclear reactor for research purposes, which it continued to operate after the act went into effect. However, The University of California, as a state institution, is not subject to Berkeley's municipal regulations (including the ban).

On November 14th 1984 the Davis, California City Council declared the city to be a nuclear free zone.


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