Anti-Nuclear Reaction: Stopping New Nukes
Linda and Paul Gunter
|PNL Graphic: Chad Hovey|
On May 1, 1977, 2,000 people gathered on a nuclear reactor construction site and refused to leave. The protest was the culmination of two years of mobilizing by the Clamshell Alliance. The target was the proposed $900 million two-unit nuclear reactor site in the tiny coastal town of Seabrook, New Hampshire. The “Clams” used nonviolent direct action to stop the construction of a project that represented the most dangerous way to boil water–by splitting the atom.
This mass action helped prevent one of the Seabrook reactors from being built. The other was completed so far behind schedule and over budget at $6 billion that it bankrupted four utilities. The public spotlight on the Seabrook campaign spawned the US anti-nuclear power movement and the financial meltdown forced the nuclear industry to shelve its plans for new nuclear plants for 30 years.
But after three idle decades, the atomic industry is attempting a comeback with a new arrow in its quiver – climate change. Proclaiming itself “clean” and “green,” the industry is making a grab for giant sums of taxpayer dollars in the form of tens and maybe hundreds of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees – the only way the industry can afford to build new power plants. Nuclear reactor costs have only continued to skyrocket in recent years – soaring above $12 billion apiece and likely more, given the precipitous fall of the global economy. One new reactor would have to come on line somewhere in the world every two weeks between 2010 and 2050 to displace enough greenhouse gases to make a difference in terms of global warming – a fiscal fantasy.
Confronting Today’s Challenges to Nuclear Abolition
3rd Annual Peace Conference
Saturday, April 25
New York State United Teachers, Brittonfield Park in East Syracuse just off 481, Exit 7.
Registration starts at 12:30pm
Activist Workshop, 1-2 pm, led by Linda and Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. Linda and Paul have long been working to eliminate nuclear power and weapons.
Also participating will be members of CARD, the Cortland, NY citizens who successfully prevented New York State from using their area for a nuclear waste dump in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Linda and Paul will deliver the Keynote Address from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. They’ll be followed by a panel discussion with Congressman Dan Maffei and Larry Wittner, SUNY Albany History Professor and National Peace Action board member.
$15 (no one turned away). Refreshments. To learn more, contact Peace Action, 478-7442, www.peaceactioncny.org.
–Gerald R. Lotierzo
Such an expansion would exacerbate an already serious proliferation problem caused by ready access to nuclear materials across the globe. At least 13 Middle Eastern countries have expressed interest in developing nuclear power programs, even though nuclear energy is clearly not their most applicable, cheapest or safest option. Most experts agree that the true agenda is nuclear weapons posturing in an already volatile region. Along with the economics, the security climate has worsened post 9-11, with the country’s 104 operating reactors vulnerable to attack. And after five decades, the radioactive waste problem remains unsolved, leaving no moral ground on which to argue the production of yet more lethal radioactive detritus.
Today’s anti-nuclear activists may not be blocking bulldozers–yet– and are instead obliged to file mountains of paperwork, attend bureaucratically driven meetings and blog their opposition on the pages of Daily Kos and elsewhere. Perhaps mindful of successful grassroots efforts in the past to pre-empt reactor construction, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made public input and intervention in its nuclear reactor licensing process more difficult.
Despite this, new licensing challenges and shutdown efforts continue across the nation. One win may be close at the country’s oldest reactor which is seeking a 20-year licensing extension. After digging through thousands of arcane documents, we discovered that New Jersey’s Oyster Creek nuclear reactor has a severely corroded containment structure hidden under a large epoxy bandage. Nearby communities quickly responded to this revelation and a new coalition was born.
A win at Oyster Creek would be precedent setting and inspire more campaigns around the country where aging reactors are running harder and are subjected to fewer safety checks. Indeed, it is imperative that this happen before the nuclear industry fully eclipses the chances for renewable energy to rescue us from the precipice of climate collapse or the next nuclear meltdown.