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Beginning very early Saturday morning, October 6, thousands of people will join in a mass nonviolent occupation of the Seabrook nuclear plant construction site. The Coalition for Direct Action at Seabrook, an outgrowth of the Clamshell Alliance, called the occupation. Local Clam groups around New England are the main sponsors, and over 80 other groups around the nation have endorsed the action. The goal of the occupation is to enter the plant site and physically prevent further construction by remaining there indefinitely. Our strength lies in our numbers, and in the clarity of our vision-- to create, with the help of the local populace, an antinuclear community of people building, gardening, living and experimenting on the site, in the model of the successful European nuclear site occupations.
The European takeovers depended on local opposition to the nuclear plants. We too rely critically on the support of Seabrook residents. For a decade now, Seabrook citizens and people all over New England have been opposing the monstrous 1,200 megawatt twin reactors planned for the small New Hampshire coastal hamlet. Seabrook is just north of the Massachusetts border, less than an hour's drive from Boston. The Seabrook nukes are a very real threat to all of us. A meltdown there would destroy most of New Hampshire, parts of Maine, and the Boston metropolitan area. The Seabrook nukes are also the cornerstone of the New England Utilities' nuclear strategy. And they may well be the test case of the will and ability of the national nuclear industry to move us to Nuclear America. A recent nuclear industry journal stated that after so many years of public opposition and attention to Seabrook, the nuclear folks must finish building it and start it operating safely or they will see the tide turn against them.
If we don't stop Seabrook, nuclear power will be firmly established in New England. When Seabrook was proposed a decade ago, planners projected a continuing increase in New England electricity demand, a growth that has since levelled off, making Seabrook unnecessary. Use of already existing excess electric generating capacity, and the reactivation of currently out-of-service hydroelectric plants throughout New England would supply more energy cheaper than the Seabrook nukes ever could. But if Seabrook is built, it will pick up whatever excess energy needs New England may develop over the next few years, and the utilities will be able to argue against increased use of solar and other renewable energy sources as unnecessary. And we will all continue to live with the threat of possible nuclear annihilation, and with the certainty of radiation-induced genetic damage and cancer increasingly occurring.
Seabrook residents have twice voted against the plant in town meetings. Seven neighboring towns have also voted to join Seabrook in upholding their traditional right to home-rule--local self-determination in some areas of jurisdiction, including whether to locate a nuke in town. This right has been totally overrun. New England residents have fought through years of regulatory and licensing procedures to stop the plant, but after numerous court orders to halt construction--and subsequent higher court overrulings of these orders--construction continues at the rate of three shifts a day.
The privately-owned "public utility", PSCo (Public Service Company of New Hampshire), requires up to 300,000 gallons of water daily construction. Seabrook in recent years has had a chronic water shortage, and the town and neighboring Hampton Falls have voted not to sell water to the plant. The company continues to use all the water it wants to. All the surrounding towns have voted against allowing transport of radioactive wastes through their communities, but the project goes on. New Hampshire residents voted out their knee-jerk rightwing governor, Meldrim Thompson, almost solely on the issue of CWIP (Construction Work in Progress) charges for the Seabrook nuke, a system that allows the utility to charge higher rates to electricity users in advance for a power plant still under construction. Under the anti-CWIP, pro-nuke new governor, the plant lurches forward. There seems to be no way to stop it.
In 1976, back when the general public was relatively unaware of the dangers of nuclear power, the Clamshell Alliance formed as a loose coalition of grass-roots antinuclear groups throughout New England, united in calling for an end to the Seabrook plant and the shutdown of nuclear plants in New England and across the nation. Sharing a common perception that the nuclear regulatory process had become a farce, Clamshell concluded that only direct citizen action could stop nuclear power.
Since then, Clamshell and other groups have held numerous demonstrations and alternative energy fairs throughout New England, as well as committing civil disobedience at the Seabrook site. The continuous educational work we have been doing on nuclear power and alternative sources of energy has raised the issue into public prominence.
Ten years of fighting Seabrook through legal channels, and three years of rallies and civil disobedience have accomplished a tremendous amount of educational and consciousness-raising work. The public is swinging around to an antinuclear stance, and hundreds of decentralized alliances and coalitions of antinuclear groups have sprung up around the country. Unfortunately, we have failed to stop construction at Seabrook. Unit One is 25 percent completed, and Unit Two is 5 percent done. Construction continues.
We cannot expect the federal government to help control the menace of nuclear power. Although President Carter ran on a platform of using nuclear energy as a last resort, as soon as he assumed office he began to argue that rapid development of nuclear power was our only way out of the energy crisis. Under his administration, the government has blatantly promoted the nuclear industry instead of regulating it. After taking a seemingly strong stand against the Clinch River experimental breeder reactor, Carter proposed that Congress explore the possibility of alternative breeders. Predictably, Congress voted to appropriate funds for the new breeders and for Clinch River. Although heavy pressure form antinuclear groups, among others, forced rabidly pronuclear James Schlesinger out of his cabinet post as Secretary of Energy, his replacement, Charles Duncan, former president of Coca Cola and once deputy chief of the Defense Department, maintains an equally hardline pronuclear stance.
After a near-meltdown at Three Mile Island (TMI), the government and the nuclear industry not only continue to press for continued use of nuclear power, but to push for expanded use, less restrictive licensing procedures, a speedup in plant construction-- and they mean to force it on us by creating yet another "oil crisis," thereby forcing us to choose between freezing in the dark and embracing nuclear power. Another cold winter looms ahead; so does an election year.
Since TMI, the public has become aware of how crucial the nuclear issue is, and has begun to give the government and nuclear industry some well-deserved skepticism. Antinuclear sentiment is fast becoming a majority position in national public opinion polls, as undecideds decide against and pronukers seriously reconsider their stance. Nuclear power is now an issue all politicians and would-be politicians must take a stand on. Their various nuclear moratorium proposals range from a temporary freeze on new plant licensings to a demand that no new reactors be built--while allowing the scores of plants presently planned or under construction to be completed. Not one of these moratium plans would in any way affect the continuing construction and eventual operation of the Seabrook nukes or any other nukes operating, being built, or in the planning stages.
As antinuclearism becomes respectable, some antinuclear activists gravitate towards national politics, giving the previously localist movement a Washington focus. Antinuclear lobbyists have developed their own version of a moratorium--the nuclear phaseout. Phaseout to some people means no further expansion of the nuclear program, or even just a slowed rate of increase coupled with speeded-up development of conservation and soft energy technologies. Some phaseout plans allow for continued construction and use of nukes well into the twenty-first century before other energy sources can completely replace fission power. But we want, and demand, more: no more plants must be built, all construction must stop where it is now, and we must move immediately towards a non-nuclear future through intensified conservation measures, widespread use of solar power and development of alternative, safe, renewable, decentralized energy sources.
Meanwhile, there still exists no proven method of safely isolating from the environment the millions of tons of radioactive wastes already produced for even a decade or two, let alone for the half-million years required for the poisons to decay to relatively safe levels of radioactivity. The Senate and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have already lifted their short post-TMI freeze on new plant licensing, and dozens of TMI clones across the country continue to operate freely.
With the tremendous backlog of nuclear wastes and the irreperable health damage already caused by the exposure of plant workers and the general public to increasing radiation levels, we can no longer afford to leave our lives in the hands of the politicians and giant corporations. When we call for shutdowns, we get slowdowns; when we demand a phaseout they will give us some kind of moratorium. The government is trying to make nukes safe so they can continue to operate--but nukes are inherently dangerous, and we will be satisfied with nothing less than an immediate shutdown of all existing nuclear plants and a massive redirection of this country towards a solar future.
The call for immediate shutdown of all nukes is not a naive fantasy. It is entirely feasible. Earlier this summer, fully one-third of all the nation's nuclear plants were shut down due to minor accidents, regulatory procedures and routine maintenance and refueling. There were no electricity shortages, no brown-outs. With nukes providing less than four percent of U.S. electricity (itself only a fraction of total energy needs), with 30 to 50 per cent of our energy being wasted, with a huge excess electrical generating capacity on the part of the utilities, even a modest program of energy efficiency would totally eliminate the need for the uneconomic, inefficient, and highly dangerous practice of generating electricity with nuclear power.
Saturday will be a departure from our previous tactics of civil disobedience. We will measure our success not in terms of symbolic value, media impact, or numbers arrested. Success this time means closing down Seabrook forever. Success means doing so collectively and without violence.
We realize our peaceful actions may provoke violent reactions on the part of the authorities. They are defending their private property, their investment. They are acting to uphold the law. But human life comes before property rights. If they use violence, we will not retaliate, but we will collectively resist arrest or removal by all possible nonviolent means. We give each occupier a six-hour training session before the action to inform him or her of all possible means of intimidation, crowd dispersal and legal action that may be used against us. The police are not our enemies. Nuclear power threatens everyone, and we oppose it out of a respect and concern for all human beings and for our planet as a whole.
We realize that a successful occupation is a difficult task, but we cannot wait passively for another accident to happen. We cannot leave the responsibility to others. This winter will test all of us. Those in power are seeing how far they can push us. We must push back.
The nuclear issue is a national one, because a Seabrook meltdown would threaten residents of Newburyport and Boston as well as Seabrook itself. But it is equally clear that the occupation would fail without firm local support. In my numerous trips to the area in recent months. I have been struck by the degree of support for and clear understanding of the occupation by the local population--particularly those closest to the plant. Northern New England seacoast towns like Seabrook enjoy the peace and quiet of their unspoiled beaches, marshes, and woods. They must now put up with the imminent destruction of the delicate ecological balance of the coastline, the noise of the never-ending plant construction, the fouled drinking water due to the plant, and the frustration of having their elected representatives ignore their repeated calls to stop the nuke and to respect their sovereignty rights.
The Local Alliance now numbers between 100 and 200 members, many of whom are senior citizens, most of whom are lifelong residents of the area. Many of them and citizens from neighboring towns plan to join the occupation. Others, who cannot afford to occupy, have donated their land for camping, parking and staging uses, as well as for use as medical, information, and media centers--even though they face the threat of intimidation and harassment by local and state authorities. They have promised to be a lifeline for the occupiers once they get onto the site, raising money and providing food and supplies for as long as is necessary.
Meanwhile, contingents of occupiers are pouring in from around the country. People have driven in from California, Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. A food brigade has arrived from Arizona; a supply wagon will come up from Pennsylvania. An antinuclear group in Scotland has sent us a message of endorsement.
All over, things are brewing. I live in the suburbs of Boston where for years there was virtually no awareness of the nuclear issue. After TMI an antinuclear group formed in my town, and now half a dozen affinity groups from the area make up the Central Massachusetts cluster. The participants range from high school students to grandmothers. An extremely diverse group of people have been calling in to offer their help and advice, including apple pickers, parents of small children, doctors, nurses and medical students, food cooperatives, Native American groups and even General Electric workers. We seem to have reached the point where the majority of Americans will understand nonviolent direct action at Seabrook, thousands will participate, and many more will support it.
Students have become a major force for the first time in the antinuclear movement. SCANN, the Student Coalition Against Nukes Nationwide, is cosponsoring the occupation and has been actively organizing and conducting preparation sessions around New England, especially in Massachusetts. The response has been overwhelming, almost too much for the fledgling alliance to handle. Affinity groups have sprung up at Boston University, UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, Tufts, Brandeis, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Boston State, Worcester State, and Harvard, with contingents coming in from Oberlin, Kent State, and Cincinnati. Boston high school students are also getting involved. Harvard, which was rather poorly represented at the 1977 civil disobedience action, will send five or six affinity groups to the occupation.
We need all the help we can get. If you do not want to occupy, you can help by doing important support work in Boston or at the legal campsite on the coast near Seabrook. Without this work the occupation will fail. We need drivers, office staffers, medics, people to gather food, supplies and money to keep the occupation going. We need people to join the occupation to replace those who will have to leave. And we need leafletters and canvassers to explain the nature of our action to others, and to join in a mass unobtrusive picket at the plant site gates Monday morning.
Unless we all work together, Seabrook and nukes across the country will be built and will start operating, and we will be increasingly addicted to our nuclear habit. It will slowly kill us. We must make the authorities realize we will no longer allow them to manipulate our lives and our future for their profits and their power. We will not let nuclear power go on. We will close the nukes ourselves.
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