Clamshell Alliance: 1,400 Arrested 30 Years Ago
PORTSMOUTH, N. H. - Longtime residents of the Seacoast will likely remember the Clamshell Alliance, a group formed in 1976 that swelled in numbers in opposition to the construction of Seabrook Station nuclear power plant.Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the Clamshell Alliance demonstration at Seabrook during which more than 1,400 people were arrested and, scattered across the country, members are coming together again for several reasons.
The group is hoping to recruit new blood to create public opposition to claims by nuclear power proponents that the energy source is the answer to global warming. The alliance is also concerned about the fact there are about 30 letters of intent that could become proposals for new power plant construction.
Paul Gunter, a Clamshell Alliance founder and director of the Reactor Watchdog Project at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington, D.C., said nuclear power proponents are engaging in just another shell game effort to legitimize expansion.
"I guess they wore out the expression too cheap to meter and are trying a new spin that a second coming can save the world from climate change," Gunter said. "It's akin to Charlie Brown being offered the football by Lucy. How many times does he need to fall on his back?"
Gunter said it would be an expansion of an "incredibly risky business" in terms of finances, safety, the environment and security risks.
"Twenty-first century energy policy solutions will be conservation coupled with renewable energy, biofuel, use of the sun and wind," he said. "We can cut 47 percent of our demand by 2055. We could have a policy to drastically cut emissions and improve our lifestyle with less consumption. It's not time to burn more coal, guzzle more oil and fire up more power plants. The con is as clear today as it was then."
Melanie Lyons, of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said they never claimed nuclear power was the answer to global warming, but only part of the solution.
"We are all for diverse electric sources - wind, solar, coal - whatever, but right now we are the nation's biggest carbon-free source of power, at 70 percent of nonemitting electricity sources," Lyons said.
Nuclear waste is managed properly and safely. We are moving forward with Yucca Mountain where we will store the country's nuclear waste."
According to the NEI Web site, scientific consensus has long affirmed that the safest method for managing used nuclear fuel is in an engineered repository deep underground. Congress took this into account in enacting the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, mandating the federal government begin collecting and disposing of used nuclear fuel from U.S. nuclear power plants in 1998.
The consensus supporting deep geologic disposal has strengthened since then. In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences concluded, "Geologic disposal remains the only scientifically and technically credible long-term solution available."
Another supporter of the use of nuclear power is former Gov. John H. Sununu, who was governor during part of the Clamshell Alliance era. Reached by phone, he said he has a 1986 Clamshell Alliance poster framed on his wall from a rally when he was governor.
The Clamshell Alliance's impact in New Hampshire was to raise electric rates dramatically by delaying Seabrook coming on-line," Sununu said. "Seabrook has proved to be a wonderful facility that has been important in New Hampshire and New England. I think the Clamshell Alliance should be ashamed of what they did."
Sununu said nuclear power has proven over 30 years to be safe, efficient, cost effective and reliable.
"It also has the advantage of not having any carbon emissions, which makes those concerned about carbon happy," he said. "We have Yucca for a storage facility where waste will go. The rest of the world figured out good ways to handle waste. So have we, and we'll get through the red tape to open it."
Yucca has been authorized and is under construction, Sununu said. The facility will come to licensing in the next year or two.
There is a Web site, To the Village Square (www.news.clamshell-tvs.org), where people can view pictures of the 1970s protests. While nonviolent, the protests resulted in a series of arrests, one as many as 1,450 people, the highest for the type of protest in US history, according to alliance members. People chained themselves to the fences in protest and there was even one trial. Rye resident Guy Chichester sawed down a Seabrook Station emergency warning siren pole, toppling it across Route 1A. Although it was evident he did it, he was acquitted after his lawyer argued any citizen has a right to protect himself or herself when the state fails to do so.
"The whole crowd is responding to the call to do something special about the anniversary," Chichester said. "There are some interesting projects, including a book containing individual accounts of what went on with people regarding that action. But the bottom line for us is we're clearly bent on reviving public awareness of the problems of the nuke and the need to get on with finding other energy sources."
Hampton resident Renny Cushing said the book is intended to preserve the historical significance of the Clamshell Alliance.
"We saw ourselves as part of the legacy of social justice, learning from the civil rights and peace movements to try to bring about social change," Cushing said. "Now we want to pass what we learned on to our heirs. What grew out of the Seabrook experience changed our energy policies. After Clamshell, there was never another atomic plant built in the country. The struggle about Seabrook was a power struggle, about who would control our democracy. It was a corruption of the regulatory process, a local and state battle that changed the political landscape of New Hampshire. It also took on national attention."
Cushing said Seabrook voters turned down the power plant at town meeting in 1976.
Cushing said the state government and a private utility worked to undermine the right to assemble.
"State police were turned into rent-a-cops for PSNH, for repression against opponents to the plant," Cushing said. "People were fired from jobs, removed from homes. We tried to hold a dance in the Portsmouth Armory and Gov. Meldrim Thompson said no. The idea we lived in such a repressive state was horrendous and the opposition came at a high costs."
Tom Wyatt, of the original alliance, said the Web site has fact sheets to tell the story of the Clamshell Alliance and its occupations at Seabrook.
"We are an untold story that spawned a lot of other alliances and focused national attention on nuclear power," Wyatt said. "After Three Mile Island, China and Chernobyl, there was a halt to the construction of nuclear plants."
Wyatt said the alliance is planning a reunion in July to try and capture oral histories.
Copyright © 2007 Seacoast Media Group.