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Posts Tagged ‘vermont yankee’

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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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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.clamshell reunion 2011 030

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.

clamshell reunion 2011 050 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 clamshell reunion 2011 027 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

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