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1996 Clamshell
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Peacework July 1996
Clamshell Special Issue

Introduction to the issue by Sam Diener, Peacework Co-Editor

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the first Clamshell protests against the impending Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (held August 1, 1976), Peacework is pleased to make available for free download our "Clamshell Alliance at 20" special issue from July/August, 1996.

In addition to the role the Clamshell played in helping launch the US anti-nuclear power movement, The Clam helped invent the late 20th century US model of decentralized, affinity-group-and-spokescouncil-based, feminist-inspired, nonviolent direct action since utilized by the anti-nuclear weapons, counter-war-in-central america, disability rights, anti-apartheid, HIV-AIDS awareness, lestransbigay, counter-corporate-globalization, and peace movements. The Clam's legacy lives on, and we are pleased to help celebrate it.

The original guest editorial introducing the issue follows.

Two Decades of Clamshell Democracy

Renny Cushing of Hampton, NH* was a co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance. Over the coming months, there will be observances of the anniversary of actions taken by the clam.


Insurmountable Risks: The Danger of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change by Brice Smith; A Report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

This hot-off-the-press, almost 500-page book with over 1000 footnotes is the resource desperately needed to counter the new propaganda touting nuclear power. The concept of the so called “peaceful atom” in 1953 was created to offset the horrors of the atomic and hydrogen bombs dropped by the United States in Japan.

Today, the fear of global warming is pitted against the fear of nuclear power, and there are calls for a massive, federally subsidized renaissance of hundreds of new nuclear power plants. We are told that nuclear power will save the planet. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent annually to promote the nuclear industry, while a pittance goes to decentralized, safe, and sustainable alternatives such as wind and solar power. Why?

Is it true that nuclear power is the solution? If we read this book, I doubt that will be our answer.

Hattie Nestel is an activist in Athol, Massachusetts, where she is working with the Citizens’ Awareness Network to decommission the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The struggle over the Seabrook Atomic Plant was, and is, about power. It is not simply about how electricity is produced. At its root is conflict over who exercises economic, cultural, governmental, and political power in our communities. "Seabrook" is a continuation of and heir to universal justice struggles, incorporating and building upon the battles against serfdom and colonization, to abolish slavery, for unionization, for women's suffrage and gender equality, for civil rights, for peace.

Seabrook marked the mass politicization of the environmental movement. Citizens with simple aspirations for a livable earth challenged the process and those who controlled it. Citizens, through acts of conscience, creativity, and commitment, forced decision-makers from the confines of a dark, unresponsive regulatory scheme onto the public stage and, in the process, redefined the debate, the stakeholders, and the values that should guide decisions on energy policy. Seabrook's construction was symptomatic of an anti-democratic mentality by a utility-government cabal. It became a worldwide symbol for both proponents and opponents of nuclear technology. We should unite with others in the US and around the world who continue to oppose poisoned power.

For New Hampshire, Seabrook is the dominant political and public policy controversy for the last half of the 20th century. The crimes and political corruption that permitted it to be built and to operate touched everyone in the state. A generation later we remember and live with Seabrook's consequences.

Working people's land seized by eminent domain. Homes bulldozed to benefit a private monopoly. State employees gagged and fired for opposing the plant. Citizens locked out of public hearings. Judges sacked. The constitution shredded. Civil rights and civil liberties put at risk. The right to petition turned on its head. Utility lawyers secretly obtaining injunctions barring Clamshell assemblies, injunctions signed by a local judge who owned stock in the Public Service Company. ACLU lawyers jailed for acting as legal observers at demonstrations. Clamshell members barred from using public buildings for a dance because they opposed Seabrook. Members of the press busted for reporting on demonstrations. The KKK organizing the only pro-nuke rally ever staged in the town of Seabrook. State police spies and agents infiltrating meetings, actions, jails. Seabrook opponents labeled "international terrorists." Subsidies of billions of dollars paid in taxes to build and operate Seabrook. After the Clamshell and Seabrook, there was never another nuke ordered in the US. This year, Raytheon, the company that constructed Seabrook, asked regulators for, and received a break on, its electric rates; it could not afford to buy power from the plant it built.

The electric industry is restructuring. Old Clams are still around to speak the truth - to assert that power should serve the people.

So widespread was the political corruption that made Seabrook possible, so tainted by it are those still holding power in the state, that today it is almost invisible. Those responsible are in hiding, or revising history. The only ones ever jailed for Seabrook were those who tried to prevent the crime of its construction.

Clamshell, like SNCC, the IWW, the Abolitionists, and countless others who challenged the established order out of a sense of justice, changed history. Those of us who were a part of the Clamshell experience need to claim and cherish our victories. We need to acknowledge the work that has been done - to shut the nukes down and to deal with the toxic legacy. And we need to honor our own legacy - the legacy of the hunger for and the fight for social justice. As we struggle every day for environmental, economic, consumer, racial, gender, community, and political justice, we celebrate the best of the spirit of the Clamshell Alliance. We share again what some call Clamshell Magic.

* Renny Cushing is still a Peacework contributing writer, and is the Executive Director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights. Membership is open to all victims' family members who oppose the death penalty in all cases. MVFHR, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02140; 617/491-9600;

Postscript in July, 2006 by Arnie Alpert:

The nuclear industry is trying to mount a comeback, now asserting nukes are needed to combat global warming (for a critique of this premise, please see the National Resources Defense Council report at At the same time, nuclear proliferation is showing that the "peaceful atom" is still a bomb. And Old Clams are still around to speak the truth - to assert that power should serve the people.

Some recent stories in Peacework about Nuclear Power are listed below:

Time to Dust Off that 'No Nukes!' Button : June 2006

The Weapon of Mass Destruction In Our Neighborhood : June 2006

Speaking Truth to Power: The Fight to Shut Down Vermont Yankee September 2005

Telling Which Way the Wind is Blowing? by Harvey Wasserman ? J. Edgar Hoover became the godfather of the movement against nuclear power. February 2004

Go to the Clamshell Special Edition Index


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