40 years after the Seabrook protests
High time to renew spirit of the fight
I know of no one who was part of the Clamshell Alliance 40 years ago who now mulls whether we were right or wrong in protesting nuclear power (“Legacy of Seabrook protest debated,” Page A1, April 29). We have dodged some bullets since then, though near-fatal accidents at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima Daiichi (2011) should frighten us to our roots.
We have spent billions of dollars on one of the most hazardous technologies ever invented and created many metric tons of toxic radioactive waste that will have to remain entombed for at least the next 250,000 years. The half-life of plutonium-239, or the time it would take for just half the stuff to decay, is more than 24,000 years; experts say radioactive materials remain fatally dangerous 10 to 20 times their half-life. Glacial ice covered much of North America 24,000 years ago.
We were promised 40 years ago that science would figure this out. We’re no closer; in fact, we seem further away. The proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, said to be America’s best nuclear waste repository, is now deemed by many to be as foolhardy and dangerous as others that have been suggested. The fact that the Trump administration has asked Congress for $120 million to restart licensing activity for Yucca Mountain should bring us all out of our stupor.
Forty years ago, we were fighting corporate greed — the arrogant conceit that short-term profit justifies a blatant disregard for the long-term interests of the planet. Sound familiar?
I found my old “Occupy Seabrook” armband. It’s time to remember the power of committed, nonviolent protest. It’s time for us all to begin chaining ourselves to fences again.
When a nuclear plant closes, emissions increase
Re “Legacy of Seabrook protest debated” by David Abel: As environmentalists concerned about climate change, we support nuclear energy. Many of our fellow activists fear nuclear energy as “the disaster waiting to happen,” while not factoring in the disaster in progress. Nuclear provides a lot of power, 24-seven, on a small footprint, and with zero emissions. Every time a nuclear plant closes in New England, our total emissions go up.
The next 10 to 20 years are critical to keep our existing plants open. Americans have among the highest energy consumption and highest emissions in the world. Just look to France and Scandinavia for examples of a high living standard with low per capita emissions among developed countries and regions. They committed to nuclear power in the 1970s. In France, nuclear has been as high as 90 percent of total energy. Scandinavia uses integrated grids, so Sweden shares nuclear, Denmark its wind, Norway its hydro. These countries add renewables; they don’t close nuclear.
The risks should be respected: Our Navy submariners live close to their reactors. But it’s our best, perhaps only, choice to lower emissions. Make our choice from fear, and we’re like Germany — closing nuclear and burning brown coal. Let market forces make the choice, and we’ll be building pipelines for fracked gas.
Safety issues could be addressed, but not when utilities hold sway
The article on the legacy of the Seabrook protestleaves out one of the most important reasons that this protester was willing to risk (and suffer) arrest 40 years ago. Yes, I was, and continue to be, concerned about the impact of seriously radioactive spent fuel on the environment; a viable solution has yet to be found. Yes, I was, and continue to be, concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants, but perhaps from a different angle than many.
With a background in science and engineering, I do believe the safety issues can be substantially solved, but not by a profit-driven private sector industry. We should all recall how General Motors’ failure to add an additional few dollars to the cost of the Chevrolet Corvair for an anti-sway bar in the mid-1960s contributed to avoidable accidents and deaths; if you’re too young to remember, check out Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed.”
However, my major concern was — and continues to be — that the many billions of dollars sucked into nuclear power plants would strengthen the stranglehold that corporate utilities have on us, their “customers,” and diminish building momentum for renewable energy. They are as desperate today to deny us decentralized power as they were 40 years ago. We should not go down that path.
She was there to cover the clash of views
I thoroughly enjoyed David Abel’s look back at the fight against the Seabrook nuclear power plant.
I was a radio reporter for WGIR-AM in Manchester, N.H., covering the Seabrook protests and the hearings by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on whether to keep the plant online. I recall interviewing the straight-laced Public Service Co. representatives on one side and covering the wonderfully crazy antics of the Clamshell Alliance on the other.
I like to believe that the protests and surrounding media coverage led to increased national consciousness about nuclear power and a greater understanding of its dangers. I do know they led to some clever signs and slogans, including the frequent “More nukes, less kooks.”