Harvard's Nuclear Ties
Harvard has more than $180 million invested in 18 nuclear companies that process nuclear fuel, construct or maintain nuclear facilities, and operate some of the country's 70 licensed nuclear plants. The University may have to reexamine these previously uncontroversial investments.
Anti-nuclear activists have recently turned to the use of proxies to snape corporate practices. This trend towards economic pressure tactics may find a following on the Harvard campus in the same way that pressure for corporate morality in South Africa has in the last few years.
Whether a university's investments give it the ability--or the right--to influence corporate behavior was a major point in the South Africa controversy.
And as the South Africa debate decreases in intensity this year, it seems already possible that nuclear power--and especially Harvard's major investments in it--might replace last year's campaign for divestiture.
Clearly nuclear power has already generated more public controversy than than the South Africa question did. This time Harvard's funds are invested in the potential hazard right next door.
George W. Siguler, assistant treasurer of Harvard College, says that, at this time, energy is the largest single investment Harvard holds, and that, for many reasons, the University will not "run away from these companies just because of opposition to nuclear energy." Siguler adds that nuclear energy is just a small portion of most major oil companies activities.
But Harvard probably won't be able to dodge a stand on the nuclear question forever. Lawrence F. Stevens '65, secretary of the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR), will face quite a few shareholder resolutions this spring from investors alarmed by the mishap at Three Mile Island.
Harvard's investors share commodities in industries that range from mining companies to conglomerates, from utilities to electronics companies including, of course, oil companies.
The largest single investment is $35 million in Exxon Corporation, which is involved in the exploration, mining milling and fabrication of nuclear fuel. Among investments in seven other oil companies, Harvard has $16 million invested in General Electric Company, a corporation active in the same processes as well as the manufacture of nuclear reactors.
Another $3.7 million of the University's funds lie in Allied Chemical, which is involved in the exploration, reprocessing and storage of nuclear fuel, and $1.6 million lie in the KerrMcGee Corporation another company involved with the total nuclear fuel cycle. Harvard also has $500,000 invested in J. Ray McDermott and Company, the owner of Babcock and Wilcox--the firm that built the reactor at Three Mile Island and six other plants throughout the country.
However, the companies Harvard invests in are just a few of the 66 that anti-nuke shareholders will hit with proxies and resolutions early next year.
Richard Austin, chairman of the Coalition of Appalachian Energy Consumers, says he believes the group's resolution calling on the American Electric Company to halt its investment in nuclear power will be more effective in educating the public on the dangers of nuclear power than in immediately eliminating the use of nuclear energy.
Austin says his coalition of 20 groups is typical of organizations that use their power as shareholders to influence corporate policy. The diverse coalition is one of many different groups pooling their shares and numbers to oppose nuclear energy.
He says the group includes blue-collar workers, environmentalists, citizens concerned with the high cost of energy, disgruntled shareholders, and anti-nuke people spread out across the six states in which the American Electric Power Company operates power plants. The coalition is "a broad based group with a common concern for the direction of the utility's development," Austin adds.
Officials in the National Council of Churches, an unusually powerful and active articulator of shareholder dissatisfaction with corporate practices, say that, for the first time, churches are preparing a significant number of resolutions directed at the nuclear power industry.
"Churches and their congregations are realizing that nuclear energy is no longer a safe, cheap or viable energy source, although the nuclear industry has told them otherwise," Chris Cowap, one of the council's directors, says.
Tim Smith, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a group similar to the National Council of Churches but aimed directly at investment policy says institutional churches will emerge as a cohesive power, questioning the future of nuclear energy in America.
The center and council will try to increase the opposition to nuclear power, Smith says, by supporting anti-nuclear legislation, distributing information to their member churches and seeking the support of scientists opposed to nuclear energy.
Beth Lerch, energy program director at the center, says their opposition to nuclear power is based on moral grounds, and promotes anti-nuke sentiment. The center is directly questioning member churches' reluctance to oppose an industry that produces materials that imperil human lives.
But interest groups using investment power to oppose nuclear industry realize that in the past proxies have been relatively ineffective in altering corporate practices. Lerch says shareholder resolutions are "but one of many tools the center will use to show the extent and amorality of corporate investment in nuclear energy."
Representatives from the Clamshell Alliance, however, see the move toward pressuring companies invested in nuclear power as something more than just an effective means of promoting anti-nuke feeling. Instead they see it as a broadening of the movement from its initial focus on halting the nuclear energy through occupations--direct action--to measures involving economics.
"Hitting the fence didn't close down Seabrook." Robert Cushing, a founder of Clamsheel, says. "Perhaps hitting the corporations in the wallet might."
On Monday the alliance and a coalition of other anti-nuke groups plan to block the opening of the New York Stock Exchange 50 years after the Crash. The "Manhattan Project" demonstrators plan to cordon off the doors of the exchange to prevent brokers from entering the building and trading the stocks of the 66 corporations active in nuclear energy
Dorothy Boudreau, a staff member of the Mobilization for Survival, says, "Shutting down the stock exchange will be the movement's most political action ever, involving more than just the apolitical environmentalists that have been the primary supporters of the occupation."
By supporting the use of shareholder resolutions and broadening the anti-nuclear movement to oppose the corporations that fund the power plants, Boudreau and her collegues say they believe they will increase popular support for the anti-nuclear movement to include other groups that are disenchanted with the capatalist economic system.
"Nukes are a symbol of economic exploitation," Boudreau says. She adds that by opposing the companies that support nukes "we're striking right at the heart of the American economic system."