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 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 output 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.
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 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 Vernon, 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.
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 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 Harbor. 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.