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Current Opinion: Seabrook, Nuclear Power, and the Clamshell Alliance
by The Boston members of the Editorial Committee
Concern over the hazards of nuclear energy has existed in the world for thirty years. In 1974, at Wyhl, West Germany, 28,000 people occupied the site of a proposed nuclear station in an area which was and is a nature preserve. Several hundred people continue to occupy the site at all times; the nuclear plant has, in effect, been stopped. The events at Wyhl have been the model for the recent actions aimed at mobilizing a broad-based coalition to halt construction of a nuclear power plant at Seabrook, New Hampshire.
The Seabrook story began seven years ago when the Public Service Company, which supplies New Hampshire with 90 percent of its electricity, quietly announced its intention to build the plant. Opposition to PSC emerged this January 4th when Ron Rieck, a young apple picker from Weare, N.H. spent 36 hours atop a 175 foot weather tower PSC erected at the proposed site. In March the town voted against the plant 768 to 632. Several organizations had been formed in the state by residents who didn’t want reactors in NH and wanted to figure out how to stop them. Absent from this nascent movement was the preponderance of environmentalists, scientists and college students usually associated with anti-nuclear protests in the US. On April 10, a rally drew 300 people to the site accompanied by the joining of town and environmental groups in a decision: to establish a broad New England Coalition to halt nuclear plant development first in Seabrook and then in the entire region.
The Clamshell Alliance, an umbrella organization of 15 anti-nuclear groups, was formed at a July meeting of 50 people, almost all of whom were NH residents. The goal of the Alliance is the halt of Seabrook construction and to force PSC to cancel the project by employing any means necessary “within the context of non-violent, direct action.
Events have moved quickly since July. Two rally-occupations were planned at the July meeting. At the first, on August I, a rally of over 500 nuclear opponents from all over New England culminated in a sit-in by 18 New Hampshire Clamshellers at the plant site. All 18 were arrested while planting pine and maple saplings. Three weeks later, a rally drew well over 1,000 and 180 were arrested at an occupation.
Since August, action has proceeded on several fronts. The seven-year old New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution has fought in the courts to have an August 13 moratorium by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on new licenses for plant construction extended to include the Seabrook site. The results to date have been discouraging. An initial favorable ruling by a board of the NRC to postpone the Seabrook construction until official publication of the Woolrich Report on waste disposal was rescinded five days later. The New England Coalition is continuing its expensive legal battle, but Clamshellers believe that Seabrook and other nuclear plants can only be stopped by non-violent, direct action.
Scheduled for October 23 is an anti-nuclear fair in the town of Seabrook with the next occupation scheduled for the spring. In the meantime, Clamshell is committed to grassroots organizing towards building strong local chapters and analyzing how· their region fits into the New England power plan. SftP shares the goal of Clamshell as expressed in its founding statement: to “re-assert the right of citizens to be fully informed and then to decide the nature and destiny of their own communities.” What separates the Clamshell Alliance from other anti-nuclear organizations is that it is committed to achieving its goal through direct, non-violent action culminating in the physical occupation of the site.
Several SftP groups have over the past few years concerned themselves with issues related to nuclear power. Perhaps it is time for the organization to choose nuclear energy as a nationwide focus. Further, we should consider direct action and other approaches to local organizing as possible forms of political activity in which we might take part. Only by involvement in struggles like the Clamshell Alliance can SftP hope to reach out beyond our current membership.