January 1990 Issue #3 ECOLOGIA NEWSLETTER Archive

January 1990 Issue #3

Clamshell Alliance: Thirteen Years of Anti-Nuclear Activism at Seabrook, New Hampshire, U.S.A.

by Paul Gunter

In August of 1976, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission , an agency of the Office of the President, issued a construction license for the Seabrook, New Hampshire, Nuclear Power Plant. Immediately 200 New England residents rallied at the edge of the future power plant site, on the seacoast saltmarsh. They organized under the banner of the Clamshell Alliance , to protest the plan to construct two 1150 megawatt nuclear reactors in the small town. Eighteen members of the Clamshell Alliance walked out onto the construction site to nonviolently obstruct construction. They were arrested for "criminal trespass" and sentenced to time in jail. A week later, 188 other New England citizens returned to the Seabrook site; they too were arrested.

By the early spring of April 1977, two thousand "Clams", as they came to be known, had returned to the site to non-violently reclaim the land and declare the ocean front "nuclear free". One thousand, four hundred fourteen Clams were arrested without violence, after two days at an on-site encampment. The antinuclear protestors were held in five National Guard Armories in New Hampshire for up to two weeks. The antinuclear movement intensified in those armories, as detention gave time for educational seminars on the dangers of nuclear power, and the need to replace it with safe and affordable renewable energy.

Now, after thirteen years, over 4,000 citizens have committed nonviolent civil disobedience at Seabrook in the effort to stop nuclear power. At the most recent demonstration, June 4, 1989, two state legislators, one from Massachusetts and one from New Hampshire, were among the 627 protestors arrested as they climbed onto Seabrook property to show their opposition and frustration.

The construction of the Seabrook facility is now complete (ten years overdue, with a cost approaching $7 billion.). The astronomical debt has led to the bankruptcy of Seabrook's major utility owner, Public Service of New Hampshire. This was the fourth largest bankruptcy in United States corporate history. But the nuclear industry and the United States federal government remain committed to licensing and operating Seabrook Station.

As part of the federal licensing process, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for many years had required individual state government approval of a nuclear plants' emergency evacuation plans. After the Chernobyl nuclear accident, public worries about nuclear plant safety mounted. As a result, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts withdrew his state's approval of the Seabrook Emergency Response Plan. He cited his grave doubts about the feasibility of effective state evacuation and sheltering capacities in the event of a nuclear accident. Then the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reversed its earlier ruling that had required State and Local approval of emergency response plans. In an effort to keep the Seabrook licensing process alive, the Federal Government decided unilaterally to over- rule the concerns of the State of Massachusetts. Consequently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission now recognizes a bankrupt electric utility company (Public Service of New Hampshire) as the "competent agent" to conduct "an orderly and prompt evaculation" of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts seacoast.

The licensing of Seabrook Station is a live or die decision for the United States' nuclear industry. With the cancellation of plans for hundreds of United States nuclear power plants over the past decade, Seabrook is the last of an industrial generation. The nuclear industry now hopes to win back public trust and confidence with smaller, standardized designs for "inherently safe reactors". Seabrook can become either a milestone or a tombstone for that industry plan.

The Clamshell Alliance remains committed in its opposition to nuclear power through public education and nonviolent public action. It believes that the only relevant protection from a nuclear accident is prevention, and that the only radioactive waste that can be truly disposed of safely is the waste not generated.

Today, much attention in the West is focused on the pro- democracy movements in the Soviet Union. Within the Soviet Union, public opposition has resulted in the official abandonment of several nuclear reactors and an official re-examination of the continued use of nuclear power in that country. With great enthusiasm, the Clamshell Alliance seeks to make contact with Soviet citizens who have focused their efforts to bring a halt to the environmental devastation caused by the nuclear energy industry.

Clamshell activists would like to host a delegation of Soviet counterparts. Particular benefit could be gained by focusing US Congressional and public attention on the glasnost successes of Soviet citizen opposition to a resurgence of nuclear power. This situation can be contrasted with United States nuclear policy, which is becoming increasingly more repressive in confronting local, state and citizen concerns.

Clamshell activists are very interested in hosting a delegation of Soviet counterparts at select U.S.A. nuclear sites for discussions of the nuclear problems we all now face. The Clamshell Alliance proposes a series of joint US/USSR meetings of citizens opposed to nuclear power, with the goals of establishing citizen activist exchanges, visits to sites in both countries, organizing media events to gain publicity and support for anti- nuclear activities in both countries, and lobbying legislators and public officials with cross-cultural information.

Interested individuals and groups, from the United States and from the Soviet Union, interested in establishing contact and beginning communication on these interests with the goals of having cross-national conferences and site visits, should contact:

Clamshell Alliance
PO Box 734
Concord, New Hampshire 03301 U.S.A.
Telephone 603-224-4163

Paul Gunter is a co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance. A resident of Warner, New Hampshire, he has been arrested at Seabrook for nonviolent civil disobedience on several occasions.

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