Friday, August 19, 2011

Recalling the June 24th 1978 Boston Globe "Pro-Seabrook Ad"

In June of 1978 a group of us at Combustion Engineering Nuclear Power Division following extensive news media coverage of the planned demonstrations by the Anti-Nuclear Clamshell Alliance decided we should make a counter statement in the news media. We hit upon the idea of taking out a full page advertisement in the largest circulation newspaper in the Boston - Southern New Hampshire area - the Sunday Boston Globe. It was strange effort. Here we were in Connecticut planning a media event that would mainly benefit a competitor: Westinghouse Electric in Pennsylvannia and a power company in New Hampshire (Public Service of New Hampshire). The text was primarily drafted by Bill Burchill. Uli Decher and I did some minor editing, but Bill was the main author. Then we went to work on collecting money. Within several days (and this was significantly before the internet and "Pay-Pal") we had collected several thousand dollars from over 750 like minded folks. 

The ad below appeared in the Sunday morning June 24th, 1978 edition of the Boston Globe at a time when the majority of the Clamshell Alliance were confined in makeshift jails after being arrested and refusing to make bail.



A Demonstration Against Nuclear Power?
OR A Demonstration Against Established Society?

Have you thought about, truly examined, the benefits of nuclear power? Are these benefits consistent with our structure of society and its values? Does denial of these benefits oppose our structure of society? Do the demonstrators oppose nuclear power, or do they oppose our structure of society? What is the real issue?!?

What are the benefits?
The benefits of nuclear power can be shared by everyone. But, denial of these benefits will most heavily impact the economically disadvantaged people in our society. The benefits for everyone are clearly represented by the following quotations from the NAACP policy on energy issued in December 1977, and reaffirmed in April 1978:

"Since the early 1960's gains have been made toward bringing the nation's Black citizens into the mainstream of American Economic Life. This has occurred largely during a period of expansion in the economy which created new opportunities for jobs. However, a great deal more remains to be done. We still have tremendous unmet social and economic needs....An abundant energy supply will be necessary if we are to have any chance to meet these challenges.....All alternative energy sources should be developed and utilized. Nuclear power, including the breeder, must be vigorously pursued because it will be an essential part of the total fuel mix necessary to sustain an expanding economy.....We recognize that nuclear power does present certain problems. But we think these problems can be solved through the dedicated efforts by government, the scientific community and industry working cooperatively together. Notwithstanding the claims of opponents of this source of energy, the fact is that nuclear power will be required to meet our future needs for electricity. If we do not move ahead now with nuclear energy, the next generation is likely to be sitting around in the dark blaming the utilities for not doing something this generation's officials would not let them do."

Who opposes these benefits?
Many of those who demonstrate against nuclear power are disillusioned with American society and distrustful of its institutions. To them nuclear power symbolizes life's frustrations (so big, so complex, it can't be understood) and its elimination is seen as one bridge to their desired social changes. Many leading opponents of nuclear power advocate the requirement for radical social changes.
Many people have an honest and sincere concern over safety and possible proliferation of materials for nuclear weapons. We would be forever judged as totally negligent in our obligation to the preservation of humanity if we did not consider these concerns. More personally, we too have families. HOWEVER,WE HAVE EXAMINED NUCLEAR POWER AND WE HAVE DECIDED IN ITS FAVOR.

What is the demonstrators' real goal?
For many, the real goal is a major change in American society. Nuclear power is not a central issue itself, but rather the clamor against it is a tool, a lever to be applied in creating an upheaval of our social, economic, and political patterns of life. An aspiration for seeking change is stated to be a desire for a more democratic society. However, the large-scale institutions which are a key product of our free enterprise economic structure are somehow excluded from this society. They are to be replaced instead with small-scale, localized technology controlled by neighbors and friends.

What are the consequences?
The consequences are evident from the history of failures of utopian experiments. Mao's "great leap forward" wherein technology was forced toward backyard industries, including even steel smelting, was a notable failure of an enticing dream. Mahatma Ghandi's "cottage industries" are held by many to have retarded progress toward improving the lot of the masses. One of the greatest improvements for the Indian village inhabitants was electrification. This step parallels the dramatic improvements to our standard of living brought about by the Rural Electrification Agency in the United States in the 1930's. Many of today's "nuclear opponents" have no personal knowledge of that period. Neither do they know what can be made available only by using the large-scale institutions which they wish to abolish.

What should they do?
The "nuclear opponents" should be honest with us about their real goals and use the established democratic processes to seek those goals. Rather than seeking referenda against nuclear power, let them ask for votes on the consequences of the unavailability of that power. Convince the over two million American workers laid off due to energy shortages last winter that there is no connection between jobs and energy supply. Convince the poor, the minorities, the working-class that America is so rich that it no longer needs growth because economic needs are no longer the principle concern of its people. Convince the people who are "without" that they don't want washing machines and refrigerators to relieve domestic drudgery, that they don't want cars for freedom on weekends and holidays, that they don't want the comfort of central heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.

What should we do?
We should recognize the real social issues even if they are disguised as oppositon to nuclear power. We should insist upon an open and fair evaluation of the consequences of actions both for and against nuclear power. Finally we should realize the true effects which our decisions will have on the future of our society.


So what has changed over the years?

The Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant went into commerical service after all the regulatory and licensing delays in 1990 - some thirteen years after recieving a construction permit. One of the last hurdles was when then Gov. Michael Dukakis refused to agree to Massachusetts participating in federally required emergency planning. Seabrook Station today generates 1245MWe. This is enough energy to supply power to over 900,000 homes and businesses. It has a workforce of approximately 1100 employees and contributes ~$20million to the local economy including ~$10million in property taxes. The current owners NextEra Energy (Florida Power & Light) have submitted their applications to operate plant until 2050.

The Chinese and Indians having abandoned the "great leap forward" and cottage industries are building new nuclear power plants and pioneering methods of speedier construction such as modularized portions of buildings being constructed off-site in factories and then shipped for assembly at the site.


  1. Hi John.

    On my blog, you can find links to two reports on how much Vermont Yankee contributes to the local economy. One report was funded by the IBEW union at Yankee, the other was done by two economic firms and funded through the Vermont Legislature.

    Basically, Vermont Yankee, with a payroll of 650 and half the size of Seabrook, contributes about $100 million to the local economy. In short, I think you have left off a zero on the economic benefit number above. With 1300 employees, Seabrook is contributing $200 million, not $20 millionl

  2. I thought the figures looked low but I think its how one treats employee salaries -- which is $100m -- vs other local benefits. I got the figures directly from the Seabrook Station website:

    Their fact sheet claims:
    1100 workers, $100m in worker salaries, $20m in property taxes, $10m in local economic impact.

    John Bickel

  3. John. The Seabrook site is being too modest! In general, economists multiply salaries by a factor of two or three for the multiplier effect in the area. Employees shop locally, go to local doctors, etc. That $10 million must be goods bought locally or know, food, non-nuclear supplies, etc.

    I posted this to the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page, too.