The announced plans by Entergy, the owner of the decrepit Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, to reload the reactor this fall with $60 million worth of fresh nuclear fuel is sure to set off a showdown with local activists determined that the plant’s life should end when its license expires next March.
The company has already received a 20-year license extension from federal regulators, but the state of Vermont insists continued operation cannot go forward without state authority. And given the radiation and lies that have spewed from the reactor for years, the state is determined to see the plant shut down.
The New Orleans-based company’s announcement comes a week after a federal judge turned down its bid for an injunction to push aside the state’s objections, meaning a trial will go forward in mid-September to test the company’s claim that federal law pre-empts any state authority. The case is likely to end up in the US Supreme Court.
Given a history of court and regulatory deference to nuclear plant operators going back decades, activists are not putting their faith in federal judges. That’s why the annual Clamshell Alliance Reunion last weekend spent most of its time discussing education and action to make sure the will of the people is respected and the plant shuts down on schedule.
The Clamshell Alliance is known for leadership of small and massive nonviolent demonstrations against construction of the Seabrook nuclear plant and for creative grassroots public education throughout New England. In its heyday in the late ‘70s, dozens of Clamshell affiliated groups were active throughout the northeast. With the 35th anniversary of the first Clamshell civil disobedience coming up Aug. 1, the Alliance continues its life through lifetime friendships and social networking that crosses over from No Nukes activism into feminist, labor, peace, anti-death penalty, and other movements.
With background from leaders of groups such as Beyond Nuclear, Safe & Green, and the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, and more than a thousand person-years of anti-nuclear experience among them, the Clams didn’t waste time arguing about the dangers of radioactive poisons or the extent to which “corporate subversion of democracy” has poisoned our political system as well. Nor did they need to argue about the power of active nonviolence, especially given the uprisings taking place around the world.
Instead, time was spent discussing how to use “Into Eternity,” a film about nuclear waste, to arouse public opinion; plans for a tour of German environmentalists to spread the word about how that country plans to shut down its nukes and generate enough electricity from safe alternative sources; and how to make sure old and new activist networks are taking advantage of social media to communicate with each other.
Discussion turned of course to plans for nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, though no specific scenarios have yet been developed. But it’s reasonable to assume that if Entergy insists of flouting the will of the people of Vermont, nonviolence training programs and formation of affinity groups will start up soon.
Here are some photos from Clamshell Reunion