Anti-nuclear movement in the United States

From Nuclear Heritage
Revision as of 12:28, 13 October 2016 by ATOMI (talk | contribs) (newsletter subscription updated)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigationJump to search

Upcoming Events

  • ...

For many years the anti-nuclear movement in the United States succeeded in delaying or halting commitments to build some new nuclear plants.[1][2][3] Anti-nuclear campaigns that captured national public attention in the 1970s involved the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, and Three Mile Island.[2] More recent targeted campaigning has related to the Indian Point Energy Center, Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station,[4] Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station,[5] Salem Nuclear Power Plant,[6] Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant,[7][8] Idaho National Laboratory,[9] proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository,[10][11] the Hanford Site,[12] the Nevada Test Site,[13] Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,[14][15] and transportation of nuclear waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.[16] Many different groups have been involved in various protests and demonstrations over the years.

More than forty anti-nuclear groups are operating, or have operated, in the United States. These include: Abalone Alliance, Clamshell Alliance, Greenpeace USA, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Musicians United for Safe Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nevada Desert Experience, Nuclear Control Institute, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Public Citizen Energy Program, Shad Alliance, and the Sierra Club.

Many well-known scientists and engineers have expressed reservations about nuclear power. These people include: Barry Commoner, S. David Freeman, John Gofman, Amory Lovins, Arjun Makhijani, Gregory Minor and Joseph Romm.

Origins of the movement

The growth of the nuclear industry in the U.S. occurred as the environmental movement was being formed. Environmentalists saw the advantages of nuclear power in reducing air pollution, but were quite critical of nuclear technology on other grounds. The view that nuclear power was better for the environment than conventional fuels was undermined in the late 1960s when major controversy erupted over the effects of waste heat from nuclear plants on water quality. The nuclear industry gradually and reluctantly took action to reduce thermal pollution by building cooling towers or ponds for plants on inland waterways.[17]

An even more bitter debate emerged over the effect of radiation emissions from nuclear plants. Several scientists challenged the prevailing view that the small amounts of radiation released by nuclear power plants during normal operation were not a problem. They argued that the routine releases were a severe threat to public health and could cause tens of thousands of deaths from cancer each year. This exchange of views about radiation risks caused further uneasiness about nuclear power, especially among those unable to evaluate the conflicting claims.[17]

Another issue was reactor safety. The large size of nuclear plants ordered during the late 1960s raised new safety questions and created fears of a severe reactor accident that would send large quantities of radiation into the environment. In the early 1970s a contentious controversy over the performance of emergency core cooling systems in nuclear power plants, designed to prevent a core meltdown that could lead to the "China syndrome", was discussed in the popular media and in technical journals.[8]

These issues, together with a series of other environmental, technical, and public health questions, made nuclear power the source of acute controversy. Public support, which was strong in the early 1960s, had been shaken. Forbes magazine, in the September 1975 issue, reported that "the anti-nuclear coalition has been remarkably successful ... [and] has certainly slowed the expansion of nuclear power." By the mid-1970s anti-nuclear activism had moved beyond local protests and politics to gain a wider appeal and influence. Although it lacked a single co-ordinating organization, and did not have uniform goals, it emerged as a movement sharply focused on opposing nuclear power, and the movement's efforts gained a great deal of national attention.[8]

Anti-nuclear protests

See also: Anti-nuclear protests in the United States

Anti-nuclear campaigns that captured national public attention in the 1970s involved the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, and Three Mile Island.[2] Specific protests have included:[18][19]

  • May 2, 1977: 1,414 protesters were arrested at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.
  • June 1978: some 12,000 people attended a protest at Seabrook.
  • August 1978: almost 500 people were arrested for protesting at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California.
  • May 1979: an estimated 70,000 people, including the governor of California, attended a march and rally against nuclear power in Washington, D.C.
  • June 2, 1979: about 500 people were arrested for protesting construction of the Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant in Oklahoma.
  • June 3, 1979: some 15,000 people attended a rally at the Shoreham nuclear power plant on Long Island, N.Y. and about 600 were arrested.
  • June 30, 1979: about 38,000 people attended a protest rally at Diablo Canyon.
  • September 23, 1979: some 167 protesters were arrested at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.
  • June 22, 1980: about 15,000 people attended a protest near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California.
  • September 1981: more than 900 protesters were arrested at Diablo Canyon.[20]
  • May 1984: about 130 demonstrators showed up for start-up day at Diablo Canyon, and five were arrested.[21]
  • June 5, 1989: hundreds of demonstrators at Seabrook Station nuclear power plant protested against the plant's first low-power testing, and the police arrested 627 people for trespassing.[22]


Further reading

  • Cragin, Susan (2007). Nuclear Nebraska: The Remarkable Story of the Little County That Couldn’t Be Bought.
  • Dickerson, Carrie B. and Patricia Lemon (1995). Black Fox: Aunt Carrie's War Against the Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant, ISBN 1571780092
  • Giugni, Marco (2004). Social Protest and Policy Change.
  • Jasper, James M. (1997). The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography, and Creativity in Social Movements, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0226394816
  • McCafferty, David P. (1991). The Politics of nuclear power: A history of the Shoreham power plant.
  • Midnight Notes collective (1979). Strange Victories: Analysis of the Antinuclear Movement in the U.S. and Europe.
  • Miller, Byron A. (2000). Geography and social movements: Comparing anti-nuclear activism in the Boston area.
  • Natti, Susanna and Acker, Bonnie (1979). No nukes: Everyone's guide to nuclear power.
  • Ondaatje, Elizabeth H. (c1988). Trends in antinuclear protests in the United States, 1984-1987.
  • Peterson, Christian (2003). Ronald Reagan and Antinuclear Movements in the United States and Western Europe, 1981-1987.
  • Polletta, Francesca (2002). Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0226674495
  • Smith, Jennifer (Editor), (2002). The Antinuclear Movement.
  • Wellock, Thomas R. (1998). Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958-1978, The University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 0299158500
  • Wills, John (2006). Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon.

Anti-nuclear groups and organizations in the USA

  1. Nuclear Free California Network

Anti-nuclear magazines

  1. the Nuclear Resister

Some past events

External links