Antinuclear coalition set for fresh assault on Seabrook
Once more -- on Saturday, May 24 -- opponents of the nuclear poweer plant being built at Seabrook, N.H., will attempt to disrupt construction. Members of 57 antinuclear groups are expected to participate in what is being billed as a "nonviolent" occupation and blockade of the plant site. This time, however, leaders of the Coalition for Direct Action at Seabrook (GDAS), an offshoot of the antinuclear Clamshell Alliance, say demonstrators will "resist" arrest, though not violently.
Gov. Hugh Gallen has declared a civil emergency in connection with the planned protest, and New Hampshire state troopers and National Guard troops will be assisted by troopers from Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
New Hampshire officials see the issue not as pro- or anti-nuclear power, but as the necessity to prevent destruction of private property.
CDAS members say it is imperative that demand construction at Seabrook be stopped. They say the hazards to human life and disruption of the delicate coastline far outweigh potential benefits, and that use of alternative fuels, plus increased conservation can meet New England's power needs.
They insist the nuclear plant is not needed, citing a report by the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL -- an organization of public and private electric utilities supplying more than 99 percent of the region's electric power) indicating that even without the nuclear plant New England will have a projected reserve of 44.3 percent in 1985-86, and only slightly less than 30 percent in 1991.
Spokesmen for Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH), the private utility that is building the Seabrook plant, do not dispute those figures, but say they are misleading because they include projections of some plants that have since been delayed and may be indefinitely postponed.
The NEPOOL figures also assume a continued rate of conservation and use of alternative fuels that may not hold true for future years, Public Service spokesmen say.
But the big selling points, PSNH's Gordon McKenney says, is the cost factor and the lessening of dependence on foreign oil. At present about 50 percent of the power produced or purchased by PSNH comes from oil-burning plants. When the two Seabrook reactors go on line, this will be reduced to about 5 percent, he says.
"Seabrook can be justified today on oil cost savings alone," Mr. McKenney contends. "If you go through the numbers, you'll find that Seabrook will pay for itself in oil cost savings alone by the end of the 1980s, assuming it comes on line as scheduled. . . ."
CDAS member Jamie Factor is unimpressed. She talks calmly about tearing down fences, facing attack dogs, National Guard troops, and state police armed with billy clubs and chemical Mace. She says she has done it before, and if that is what it takes to halt the construction, she will do it again.
She says the "direct action" of CDAS is similar to the civil disobedience used, without success, by the Clamshell Alliance in trying to halt Seabrook construction. But there is one major difference -- those involved in the CDAS protest will resist arrest, according to Miss Factor.
"With civil disobedience people are saying they feel strongly enough about something to be willing to go to jail for it. With direct action we're saying that although we feel strongly enough that we would go to jail for it, we don't want to because that's not going to help us stop the plant from being built."
Coalition members feel the nuclear power plant poses tremendous potential danger to life, and that his justifies their action. But they insist there will be no violence directed at people, no matter what security forces do.
The destruction of private property (fences, etc.) and the potential for violence if security forces try to keep the protesters out has alienated other more moderate anti-nuclear groups.
"I think it's clear that neither the state of New Hampshire nor the Public Service Company of New Hampshire feels that the Seabrook nuclear power plant should be shut down," says Nate Thayer, explaining that decision. "They have continuously rejected the wishes of the people of Seabrook, who have voted . . . not to have the nuclear power plant in the town, and it's clear that the plant will continue to be built if we rely upon working within the electoral system."
Since March 1976, Seabrook residents have voted twice against construction of the nuclear plant; once against transporting radioactive materials through Seabrook, and once against providing the large quantities of water the plant would need. $"We're not militant terrorists," says a CDAS member. "We're just normal college students, workers, people who feel we have to change something in our lives. And we do it with just the resources we have at hand -- our minds, our abilities, and our collective understanding of what we're trying to do."
Some CDAS members also apparently see the Seabrook action as a test of a new, more militant form of direct action that might be emulated by other groups.
"It's important to realize that there are more objectives this time than just occupying and blockading the plant," says a CDAS member. The aim is "to help build a direct action movement that will empower people in all different strata of society to take direct action in their own lives wherever they feel oppressed. . . . We hope this will be an example to others in the antinuclear movement, the women's movement, and other emerging movements such as the antidraft movement."