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Posts Tagged ‘clamshell alliance’

You Have Nothing to Lose but the Nukes, and a Solar Future to Gain!

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Stephen Comley addresses the Clams on the World Fellowship lawn.

Ever heard of the “bathtub curve?” It’s a principle of reliability engineering that illustrates the failure rates for technology. When a form of technology is new, it has a high failure rate. As the bugs get worked out, failure rates decline. But as the productbathtub curves age, failure rates rise again.

Paul Gunter says the bathtub curve is useful for understanding nuclear reactors. Disasters at Three  Mile Island and Chernobyl represented catastrophic failures of relatively new reactors. Fukushima would be an example of failure for an aging reactor. The aging of the US reactor “fleet” means “this is the most dangerous time,” Gunter said.

With backing from the Cheney and Obama administrations, the industry promised a 21st century nuclear renaissance and promoted itself as a replacement for fossil fuels. Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford says “the renaissance story line was hard to resist.”

“By early 2009,” he writes, “applications for 31 new reactors were pending at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The promises came garnished with tales of remorseful changes of heart from oft-obscure nuclear converts. With few exceptions, the news media – especially television with its thirst for the short and the simple – fell for the renaissance story line.”

In a foreword to The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013, Bradford writes of the supposed renaissance, “It is all in ruins now. The 31 proposed reactors are down to four actually being built and a few others lingering on in search of a license, which is good for 20 years. Those four are hopelessly uneconomic but proceed because their state legislatures have committed to finish them as long as a dollar remains to be taken from any electric customer’s pocket. Operating reactors are being closed as uneconomic for the first time in fifteen years.”

Or as Paul Gunter put it, industry has gone from the “too cheap to meter” line of the 1950s and ‘60s to the reality of “too expensive to matter.”

Gunter, a Clamshell founder who is now co-director of Beyond Nuclear, was one of several speakers at last weekend’s Clamshell Alliance Reunion, held at PAUL40world fellowship july 2013 285World Fellowship in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The annual event is part social, part educational, part planning and plotting for a community of activists who met in the No Nukes days of the 1970s and 80s.

Other speakers included Doug Bogen, who’s been promoting the potential of offshore windpower from floating turbines in the Gulf of Maine; Naoto Inoue, a solar entrepreneur from Arundel, Maine; and Stephen Comley, who woke up to the dangers of nuclear power when an NRC official told him to stock upon potassium iodide pills for the the residents of his Rowley, MA nursing home, 12 miles from the Seabrook reactor.

Spurred to action, Comley organized 80% of town residents to sign a petition for Seabrook to be shut down. As a long-time Republican activist, he even delivered the petitions in person to President Ronald Reagan. He is still talking about nuclear dangers, especially his allegation that counterfeit, substandard parts were installed at 72 reactors, a fact revealed to him years ago by an industry insider. Comley started a group, “We the People,” to collect such stories and try to get action from people in high places. At this time he’s trying to communicate with Michelle Obama in hopes that she can get through to her husband.naoto04world fellowship july 2013 276

Paul Gunter said “climate change needs to motivate all of us.” That’s why it was great to hear from Naoto Inoue, who heads Talmage Solar Engineering in  Arundel, Maine. From installing photovoltaic (PV) systems at homes on the coast of Maine, Inoue has taken the plunge into large-scale solar generation with a 2.2 megawatt PV installation in Sharon, Vermont. With support from Vermont’s pilot “feed-in tariff” program, the solar array can economically provide enough electricity for the entire town.

Doug Bogen says offshore wind is another viable alternative. The state of Maine has a commitmDOUG03world fellowship july 2013 138ent to support 5000 megawatts of capacity in the next 20 years, by coincidence the date the Seabrook reactor’s license is due to expire. We can’t rely on wind for 100% of our energy needs, he said, but the potential is  there to replace New England’s aging nuclear plants and phase out fossil fuel plants as well. Bogen is promoting the idea that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, a massive industrial facility sited on a deep water port, would be the perfect place for the massive wind turbines to be manufactured.

The Clams also heard some words of wisdom from Peter Kellman. peter17world fellowship july 2013 321Whatever struggle you’re in, says the veteran organizer, never forget “the big picture.”

I was also grateful to spend some time with Sukie Rice, a former American Friends Service Committee staff member who conducted nonviolence training workshops for early Clamshell demonstrations at Seabrook.  She recalled meetings in the spring of 1976 at which Clamshell organizers agreed to adopt nonviolence as a guiding principle for direct action.  “If what they wanted was for New Hampshire residents to see them as legitimate, they would have to act in the manner of nonviolence,” she recalled.  It was Elizabeth Boardman, she said, who introduced the Quaker principle of consensus decision-making.  The use of affinity groups and “spokes” meetings came from the experience of the Cambridge-based Nonviolent Direct Action Group, an anti-war project of the early ‘70s.  From early on, she said, “I knew it was the start of something big.” 

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“The criminal laws cannot be used to suppress this revolution”

My acquaintance with New Hampshire’s Constitution began while I was incarcerated in the National Guard armory in Concord following my arrest – and that of 1414 others – at the Seabrook nuclear plant construction site in 1977. As I recall, someone passed out copies of a blue-covered booklet containing the story and text of the state’s foundation document, and said “check out Article Ten of the Bill of Rights.”

Article Ten, adopted in 1784, describes the “Right to Revolution” as follows:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

By definition, revolution takes place outside the law, and this provision seems to be a statement of political philosophy more than a principle of governance. But Guy Chichester used it successfully before a jury following his 1990 arrest for chainsawing down a Seabrook Station evacuation siren pole.

I made reference to Article Ten in a pre-sentencing statement before Judge William Lyons in Manchester District Court on May 17, 1999. I was then a member of a dangerous gang dubbed “the Footlocker Eight,” on trial for criminal trespass after committing the act of distributing anti-sweatshop leaflets inside the Mall of New Hampshire.

Citing the Constitution, I said “It is not only our right as citizens to assemble and speak about the common good, it is our duty as citizens of New Hampshire to actively resist oppression.”

My statement to the Judge also referred to Article 22, which states,

“Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state: They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved,”

and Article 32, which asserts

“The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble and consult upon the common good, give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by way of petition or remonstrance, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.”

Now, Barbara Keshen, staff attorney for the NH Civil Liberties Union, is citing the same provisions of the New Hampshire Constitution in an elegant motion to dismiss charges against fifteen people cited with trespass and curfew violation charges  stemming from Occupy New Hampshire’s encampment at Manchester’s Veterans Park last fall.

The root of Keshen’s argument is that protection for political speech trumps the city’s curfew, which prohibits people from being in Veterans Park between 11 pm and 7 am. Therefore, police had no right to arrest the Occupy protesters, whose presence in the park was clearly political in nature. And while the First Amendment to the US Constitution merely says the government shall not interfere with speech, “our constitution requires that the government act affirmatively to safeguard free speech,” she argued.

“Our constitution consciously ties free speech to a free state. It requires the government not just to refrain from abridging free speech, but to inviolably preserve free speech,” Keshen said.

Keshen goes further, and asserts that the “peaceful and revolutionary activity” in which the protesters were engaged is protected by Article Ten. “The criminal laws cannot be used to suppress this revolution,” states the Motion to Dismiss.

Unlike the Guy Chichester case, the audience for this legal argument is not a jury. It is the same Judge Lyons, still presiding at Manchester District Court 13 years after he found the Footlocker Eight guilty as charged.

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manchester 11-5-11 026 The Saturday gathering of Occupy New Hampshire at Veterans Park in Manchester was treated to a visit from Mark Twain, who spent most of an hour entertaining and informing about 30 members of the 99%. 

“We have a choice between democracy and empire,” intoned the white garbed writer, a veteran of the anti-imperialist movement that opposed US intervention in the Philippines at the close of the 19th century.  Whether those gathered knew the story or not, Twain’s point was lost on no one.  Having just completed John Sayles’ massive novel, A Moment in the Sun, set in 1898, I knew what the writer meant when he said, “in our name they are torturing people.” 

Twain was portrayed by Ed Helm, a one-time Capitol Hill staffer who has dabbled in other forms of politics in recent years.  Ed is now producing a series of TV programs dealing with the current empire and the fiscal excess which fuels it. 

newmarket 11-6-11 003 Sunday the scene shifted to Newmarket, where about a hundred people met at the Stone Church to hear from Occupy members and discuss issues including economic and labor conditions, drone warfare, education policy, and nuclear power. 

The program included a panel with five occupiers sharing their varied experience and perspectives.  Michael Joseph, a late-50s teacher, spoke about the correlation between runaway corporations and declining labor standards.  “Occupy groups everywhere, employers with a conscience, and self-employed must understand and support the revitalization of the traditional labor movement,” he said.

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Shannon Thompson and Matt Richards, both a lot younger, were less specific in their analysis but every bit as passionate in their commitment.  For Shannon, the Occupy movement is “humanity’s chance to prove itself.”  Matt, who grew up in a Manchester working class family, said he “wanted to get together with people in my community to see what we can do.” 

Cacilia Svenbye, a veteran of the movement that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines, said she found “the same shit” when she migrated to the USA.  Since then, she’d been waiting 18 years for the people to rise up.  Like Matt, Cacilia was one of 5 people arrested at Veterans Park for disobeying city curfew regulations.  

And Theresa Earle, who is in the process of moving to New Hampshire, described herself as a nerd with no activist experience who was among the initiators of Occupy Boston.   “People want their voices heard,” she said, a pretty basic expression of what the Occupy movement is all about.

Shannon says Occupy is a “movement of mass education.” In that spirit, I suppose, I gave a short presentation at Veterans Park on Saturday about the Clamshell Alliance, which occupied the construction site of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in the late 1970s.   And on Sunday I led a short workshop about active nonviolence.

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On October 23 thirty-five years ago, four college friends joined me for a ride from Middletown, Connecticut to Hampton Beach State Park for a rally across the harbor from the construction site of what woscan - oct 230001uld become the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant. It was my first No Nukes rally.

The rally was held two months after a demonstration at which 180 people had been arrested for peacefully attempting to occupy the construction site.  I don’t remember who spoke at the rally. What I do remember is an announcement that there would be another attempt to occupy the construction site the following spring.

A few months later I phoned the Portsmouth office of the Clamshell Alliance to ask how to get involved.   They told me all participants would need to attend a training session in the techniques of nonviolent action, and that I should call Joanne Sheehan, a nonviolence trainer in my area.

Looking back over three and a half decades, it’s interesting to reflect on how a rally and a couple of phone calls put me on a path to many acts of civil disobedience, dozens of nonviolence training sessions, and recent conversations about the role of nonviolence in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  

It’s also interesting to look back to say that while the No Nukes movement generally was given an “environmentalist” label, the Clamshell Alliance always saw the construction of the nuclear plant as an abuse of corporate power, not just a threat to the environment.  Its founding statement, adopted in 1976, stated a fundamental belief that “energy should not be abused for private profit, and that people should not be exploited for private profit.”  The “Declaration of Nuclear Resistance,” adopted a year later, explained “The nuclear industry is designed to concentrate profits and the control of energy resources in the hands of a powerful few, undermining basic principles of human liberty.”

It was an understanding of the links between corporate power and nuclear power that led us to Wall Street on October 29, 1979, when we blocked the entrance of the New York Stock Exchange on the 50th anniversary of the Great Crash.  Hundreds were arrested.  (You can see video of this demonstration in a clip from Green Mountain Post Films.)

In a sense, Wall Street got the message.  After the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, the moguls of finance lost confidence in nuclear power plants, whose designers and builders assured them would never fail.  With a realization that billions of dollars of investment could turn overnight into a pile of radioactive rubble, investors began to see nuclear power as too risky. 

Other social movements got the message, too.  Mass, nonviolent action can have a powerful, transformative effect.   Participatory democracy can work, even in the course of mass action.   People power can challenge the power of money.  The Clamshell Alliance didn’t invent these concepts, of course.  But the Clamshell model spread across the country in the late 1970s.  Its descendants are in the streets now, once again (or still) saying people are more important than private profit.

If you look at the poster included in this post, it looks like the October 23 demonstration was intended to be a site occupation involving civil disobedience.  Organizers realized more time was needed to prepare, and the date of the 3rd occupation was put off until the following spring.  That turned out to be a wise decision.  The poster was revised, but a few copies of the old ones remained.

 

 

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Rally/Picnic Marks 35th Anniversary of Historic Protest

More than thirty people of diverse ages rallied outside the Seabrook nuclear power plant today to commemorate a historic demonstration 35 years ago and to support efforts to block the plant owners’ bid for a 20-year license extension. 

With twenty years still to go before its operating permit runs out, NextEra (sounds like “Next Terror”) already seeks to extend the reactor’s operation an additional seabrook 8-21-11 042 two decades. Doug Bogen, Executive Director of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, says, “These guys don’t know what they’re doing.”  SAPL, Beyond Nuclear, and other groups maintain the NRC has no business considering a license extension 20 years before the old one expires, especially in the wake of revelations that the plant’s concrete foundations may be crumbling.

Bogen urged those concerned about Seabrook’s operation to attend a public hearing, September 15,  where the plant’s environmental impact will be discussed.  Bogen says that all Environmental Impact Statements are required to examine alternatives, a topic given insufficient attention by the operators of Seabrook Station. 

In fact, he says an offshore wind generating plan with four times the outseabrook 8-21-11 028put of the  Seabrook reactor is slated to go online in 20 years, right when the Seabrook license should expire.  SAPL is prepared to argue that the availability of wind energy provides reason enough to deny Seabrook a license extension.   The hearing will take place at 1 Liberty Lane in Hampton, with sessions running from 1:30 to 4:30 PM and again from 7 to 10 PM. 

The timing of today’s rally, billed a “Picnic at the Plant,” or “Lunch at the Dump,” was meant to coincided with the 35th anniversary of a Clamshell Alliance demonstration on Aug. 22, 1976, when 180 people were arrested while planting trees on the nuclear plant’s construction site.  That event brought nonviolent training and the “affinity group” concept into the growing No Nukes movement.  Eight months later the construction site was occupied by a couple thousand people, 1415 of whom (myself included) were arrested. 

seabrook 8-21-11 033 The spread of No Nukes demonstrations, coupled with extensive grassroots education, paved the way for a change of consciousness that put the nuclear power industry into a coma.  But the pro-nuclear bias that has afflicted the federal regulatory apparatus from the beginning is still there, hence the NRC’s record of re-licensing every reactor that has asked for it.   And the profits the nuclear industry stands to gain if it can persuade the government to grant it massive taxpayer subsidies create incentives that could waken the industry from its deep sleep – if we let them.

Willow Mauck, one of the organizers of today’s rally and a similar picnic three seabrook 8-21-11 039 weeks earlier, was a child when she was arrested after climbing over the fence at Seabrook in the final phase of demonstrations before the plant went into operation.  With her mom, a No Nukes veteran, and a handful of young activists from the Northwood area, Willow spread the word that brought 33 people to the plant gate today.  Today’s crowd included people who were not yet born when the plant opened, some like Willow who are children of Clamshell activists, and some who were already experienced activists when the No Nukes movement was born. 

After she applied for and received a permit, Willow says she was twice visited by FBI agents who wanted to know what she was planning.   Although it was “a bit intimidating,” she said she told them what the plans were.  “It’s not a secret,” she said.

FBI interest may indicate an enhanced concern about nuclear plants as targets of terrorism, or it might just represent the agency’s historic suspicion of protest movements, even those explicitly dedicated to peaceful methods.  

Nevertheless, Willow and the See Life Affinity Group deserve credit for re-awakening Seabrook protests.  The re-awakening is just in time to add energy to plans to step up protests at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant next spring.  The  VT Yankee 3-20-11 025Vernon, Vermont plant received its license extension right after the Fukushima reactors started melting down.  But in this case, the State of Vermont insists it gets a say in the matter.  And so far, Vermont’s governor and legislature are committed to the plant’s shut down when its 40 year license expires next March. 

Organizers in Vermont are making plans to launch nonviolent protests to prevent the reactor from operating if its owners insist on keeping it going beyond the license expiration date.

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Seabrook Station is not as unpopular as its Vermont cousin.  But its location across the harbor from a busy beach community and the impossibility that the area could be seabrook 8-21-11 003 evacuated in the event of an accident make its operation controversial.  Today’s rally received many friendly waves and honks from motorists on busy Route 1. 

Beach-goers facing the ocean may have been unaware of the potential danger lurking across Hampton Haseabrook 8-21-11 002rbor.  But they might have seen an unobtrusive sign on the bath-house. “If you hear a steady siren, 3 to 5 minutes” it warns, tune into the Emergency Broadcast System for instructions.   Then, hop in your car and join the traffic headed back toward the reactor in order to reach the major roads.  

 

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World Fellowship, the family summer camp with a conscience, begins its 71st summer season this weekend on the edge of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. 

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For the Board and staff, months of planning and preparation meet the test of real guests asking about towels, kvetching about the the meals (always excellent, in my opinion), asking for directions, and giving rapt attention to Andy’s morning announcements and weather reports.

For those fortunate enough to be planning to be there a few days or longer, the new season promises opportunities to connect with old friends and meet new ones, while enjoying stimulating presentations, walks to Whitton Pond, and reading under the trees.  

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I’m looking forward to the Clamshell Alliance Reunion Weekend, July 22 to 24, and the week which follows. 

And for those who have not yet made your reservations, it’s not too late.  The buildings may be old, but World Fellowship has an up-to-date (mostly) web-site, enabling you to reserve and pay on-line.  Do it now!

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