Summer at Seabrook: Clamshell Will Return in Force

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Summer at Seabrook: Clamshell Will Return in Force

by Frank Bove

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 10, No. 3, May/June 1978, p. 36–37

Seabrook, NH will again be the stage for massive nonviolent civil disobedience to protest nuclear power. The Clamshell Alliance, a New England-based organization of 53 local groups, is planning an “occupation/restoration” of the nuclear plant construction site on June 24. The call has gone out nationally and internationally for support. Anti-nuclear activists have been encouraged to organize actions at nuclear plants in their locales. The Crabshell Alliance in Seattle is also organizing a site restoration and demonstration for June 24.

Nonviolence Preparation

For Clamshell, this will be its fourth occupation of the Seabrook construction site. Like the three previous actions, all participants will receive nonviolence training before they occupy. Occupiers will form into affinity groups of 15-20 people. Each affinity group will provide food and other forms of physical and emotional support for its members. Unlike the three previous actions however, Clam is planning to “restore” the site by setting up projects demonstrating the potential of alternative, renewable energy sources (e.g., solar and wind energy) in agriculture, aquaculture, and silvaculture (tree products).

There is a strong possibility that a huge police and national guard force, under the command of New Hampshire’s ultra-rightist Governor Meldrim Thomson, will be amassed at Seabrook to confront the occupiers. In preparation for this likely event, Clamshell has drawn up guidelines for an orderly, peaceful action. These include:

1) All occupiers must have preparation in nonviolent action before taking part in the June 24 occupation.

2) No weapons of any kind.

3) No damage or destruction of Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSC) or Seabrook property.

4) No running at any time.

5) No strategic or tactical movement after dark.

6) No breaking through police lines.

7) No dogs.

8) No drugs or alcohol.

9) In case of any confrontation, we will sit down.

Growing Public Opposition

Although construction of the $2.5 billion Seabrook plant continues around the clock, there has been growing antinuclear sentiment in NH. For a decade, seacoast people have fought against the plant in the courts. Two years ago, Seabrook and seven other New Hampshire towns voted against the plant in town meetings. More recently, Seabrook and neighboring Hampton Falls have refused to sell Public Service Co. the water essential for construction. PSC faces increased statewide opposition to its 17%, $27 million rate-hike request. PSC has already raised the rates 17% in anticipation of a favorable ruling by the NH Public Utilities Commission. Seabrook has joined seven other New Hampshire communities which have registered their opposition to the rate hike for “construction work in progress” (CWIP). Finally, PSC still lacks federal EPA approval of the plant’s controversial cooling tunnels.

Encouraged by the successful Seabrook occupation last spring, antinuclear groups have sprung up nationwide. The nuclear industry is attempting to stem the tide of nuclear opposition by launching a well-financed campaign, with the help of Clamshell’s position that nuclear President Carter’s pollster Pat Caddell, to reach out to people they categorize as having “low socio-economic status.” Clamshell has also been working hard to reach out to unions and to workers on the site to inform them of the dangers and uneconomics of nuclear power, the hazards of radiation at the workplaces, and the job-producing potential of cost-efficient, safe and renewable energy alternatives.

Recent reports have confirmed power is uneconomical and dangerous. A RAND study claims that construction costs of nuclear power plants will double in real, uninflated dollars, every six years or less because of recurrent design failures. The Seabrook plant began as a $970 million project, but now the estimate is $2.5 billion and could top $3 billion. PSC has claimed that it will need rate hikes every year until 1984 in order to construct the Seabrook plant. Recent studies on the effects of low-level radiation upon workers have shown that radiation levels previously presumed safe are now proving to cause cancer and leukemia. At the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, maintenance workers repairing nuclear sub reactors have a cancer death rate twice the national average and nearly 80% higher than the rate for other shipyard workers.

Although construction continues around the clock, there has been a growing anti nuclear sentiment in New Hampshire.

As the case against nuclear power becomes stronger, the nuclear industry will be forced to step up its campaign of retaliation. However, despite “rough rider” Thomson’s intentions to thwart the occupiers, the Clamshell action will undoubtedly receive worldwide attention and extensive media coverage, and will once again demonstrate the growing strength of the people’s movement to seize control over decisions which affect our lives.

Frank Bove is a staff person in the Cambridge office of Clamshell Alliance. 

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