Nuclear Energy: Covering the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant

[caption id="attachment1138" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href=""><img class="size-medium wp-image-1138" title="Powerplantfisherman" alt="Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant" src="" width="300" height="123" /> Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons[/caption]

Working on the WCVB assignment sheets, I couldn’t help but notice the ongoing coverage of the construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire. While the WCVB stories do end up covering a lot of the North East, most of the big stories are either Boston-based, or Boston reactions to national stories. That is why I was so surprised that there are no less than 57 mentions of the nuclear power plant. I could glean a lot of information from the records, so I came to a quick understanding of why this story was getting so much coverage, but it took a little research for me to realize that this wasn’t only a nationally important story getting covered locally, but was actually a local story. Seabrook, New Hampshire is only 40 miles from Boston City Center.

In 1976 the construction permit for Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant was granted. There were protests by anti-nuke groups starting right away, and between 1976 and 1989, more than 4000 people demonstrated at the site of the plant. However, the biggest and most famous protest was staged in April of 1977 by Clamshell Alliance. Over 2000 activists came to this protest, 1414 of whom were arrested and held for two weeks, refusing bail. The size of this demonstration is especially notable because it took place in 1977, before the partial nuclear meltdown at the 3 Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in March 1979, which we also have coverage of in our collection. This accident was an event that triggered protests around the world and a decline in the number of new reactors built in the U.S., and it is still considered the worst accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history. In addition to anti-nuke groups, Massachusetts Governor Dukakis, concerned about environmental effects and emergency evacuation plans, was also opposed to the construction of the plant.

The Seabrook Plant was a big story with a lot of press coverage, which is great because it means we have information about the events from different perspectives and covering a range of topics, rather than focusing on only one person, group, or viewpoint. Those 57 stories discuss the views of local residents, Meldrim Thomson (then New Hampshire’s governor), Massachusetts politicians, anti-nuke groups (including Clamshell Alliance), national politicians at D.C. hearings, and the Environmental Protection Agency. These stories covered anti-nuke arguments, construction workers and schedules, utilities companies investing in the power plant, alternatives to building a nuclear power plant, protests of the plant, protesters being arrested and in court, efforts to raise awareness in Boston and other places, town meetings, and comparing the proposed Seabrook plant with other nuclear power plants.

Construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant was held up for ten years, and costs almost $7 billion. Construction of Unit 1 was completed in 1986, and full power operation began in 1990. Plans to build a second unit were cancelled. Recently, the license was extended from 2030 to 2050.

Nuclear energy is still an extremely controversial topic nationally and internationally.  Affinity groups, like Clamshell Alliance are still active. To read about current views on the issue, please visit the following websites:

Clamshell Alliance

Environmental Protection Agency

SAGE Alliance

Safe and Green Campaign

World Nuclear Association

In the past few weeks Alliance groups protested another New England Nuclear Power Plant, the Vermont Yankee Plant, in a rather unusual way. Watch this video of their "Trojan Cow" Protest.

Vote to digitize and stream stories about the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant here, and about the protests here.


Delevingne, Lionel. “30th Anniversary of Mass Arrest at Seabrook, NH, Anti-Nuclear Rally.” Mother Jones, (accessed May 29, 2012).

Marcuse, Harold. “Seabrook, NH Nuclear Plant Occupation Page.” (accessed May 29, 2012).

Wikipedia contributors, "Nuclear power," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,;oldid=493424173 (accessed May 29, 2012).

Wikipedia contributors, "Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,;oldid=486459087 (accessed May 29, 2012).

Wikipedia contributors, "Three Mile Island accident," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,;oldid=494813366 (accessed May 29, 2012).