Reflections on Nuclear Power

October 1979: Riot police stand behind the blockaded front gate of Seabrook, NH nuclear plant during an anti-nuclear protest by the Coalition for Direct Action (Photo: Ken Kelley)

by Ken Kelley

It seems unimaginable, several decades after accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to hear people like President Obama tout nuclear power as a clean source of energy. Obama announced $8 billion in taxpayer subsidies last year to build two reactors in Georgia, despite the fact that—from the mining of uranium to the unresolved issue of disposal of highly toxic radioactive waste—nuclear power is the most environmentally dangerous way of generating electricity.

While the Georgia reactors will be the first built in the U.S. since the 1970s, there are over 60 new nuclear plants under construction worldwide, mostly in Asian countries like China, India, and South Korea. Talk of a “nuclear renaissance”as if it were some kind of cultural reawakening—has brought me back to the heyday of the anti-nuclear movement in the late 1970s, when it seemed that the industry was on the ropes and that nuclear power would soon be a thing of the past, leaving only its toxic legacy for future generations to deal with.

I remember one late afternoon on a hot spring day in 1977, as I waited with other members of the Clamshell Alliance to be arrested for the third occupation of the construction site at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.  At dusk, a state trooper led me on to a school bus, packed with chanting protestors.

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