As Biden sinks billions into nuclear energy, members of the historic Clamshell Alliance are reuniting to spark a new wave of anti-nuke resistance.

By Arnie Alpert

When a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania went from a technological miracle to a pile of radioactive rubble in a matter of moments in 1979, the Portsmouth, New Hampshire office of the Clamshell Alliance became a hive of activity. I was working there at the time, fielding calls from activists and journalists from around the world. Everyone wanted our opinion since — over the previous few years — our nonviolent demonstrations to prevent the construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant put us at the forefront of a growing social movement.

From the arrests of 18 New Hampshire residents in our first act of civil disobedience in 1976 to more than 1,400 arrests the following spring to a permitted rally that drew some 18,000 protesters in 1978, the Clamshell Alliance touched off a grassroots anti-nuclear rebellion that brought the “No Nukes” message to communities across the country and into the popular culture.

With that groundwork in place, Three Mile Island took our message to the next level. The idea that “nuclear power is a bad way to generate electricity” soon became accepted knowledge across the United States. Everyone from Wall Street tycoons to congressional staffers to ordinary voters now understood that the nuclear industry’s promise of safe, clean and affordable power was a fraud.

Unfortunately, in recent years this understanding has slowly eroded, as the industry has worked to tout its product as the answer to climate catastrophe. With the Biden administration now sinking billions into nuclear energy — and Congress on the verge of passing legislation to ease regulatory precautions on new reactors — the nuclear fraudsters are aiming for a comeback.

“Whether they call it a ‘nuclear renaissance’ or a ‘nuclear enlightenment,’ nukes aren’t the answer to the climate crisis,” said Paul Gunter, who was one of the first 18 Clamshell members arrested at Seabrook in 1976.

Now the co-director of Beyond Nuclear, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Takoma Park, Maryland, Gunter says “Nukes are just too expensive, take too long to build and feature too many pathways to catastrophic accidents.

What’s more, as he maintains, their continued use — along with building costly new reactors — make climate change worse and the world less safe.

With this in mind, “seasoned Clams,” as we jokingly call ourselves, have been holding regular meetings over Zoom — and occasionally in person — to strategize on how to bring our anti-nuclear message to younger generations, as well as fellow boomers, for whom Three Mile Island has become a faded memory. We ultimately want to refute the nuclear industry’s claims that it has solved the problems posed by the old reactors.

In a statement on our new website, we assert: “A tsunami of nuclear power propaganda is sweeping the globe.” According to Gunter, this propaganda is backed by a multi-billion-dollar nuclear promotion campaign funded by taxpayers via the Biden administration’s Department of Energy. “They even have a plan to convert coal-fired power plants to nuclear generation,” he said.

Billions of dollars in nuclear subsidies were loaded into Biden’s infrastructure bill, with billions more in the Inflation Reduction Act. Meanwhile, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act — which sailed through the U.S. House 365-36 last month — extends nuclear subsidies further by continuing the $16.6 billion cap on liability from nuclear accidents for the next 40 years.

“The still unrealized total damage costs of a severe nuclear accident, as evidenced by ongoing nuclear catastrophes at Fukushima (13 years ago) and Chernobyl (38 years ago), are already running into the hundreds of billions of dollars,” Gunter said, adding that Congress didn’t even hold a public hearing on the liability cap extension.

As the new Clamshell website maintains, new nukes are not needed to avert a climate crisis. “Far better options are being built much faster than nuclear power plants, at a fraction of the cost and without the grave hazards. They include solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, efficiency and conservation.”

The idea for this statement came from Anna Gyorgy, author of the influential 1979 book “No Nukes: Everyone’s Guide to Nuclear Power.” True to the Clams’ old principles, the statement was drafted by two writers after consultation with a larger group, reviewed by a committee, and ultimately approved by consensus. We have also stuck to our belief that nonviolence is the best method for social movements to disrupt unjust systems and promote alternatives.

“Nonviolence, in the tradition of King and Gandhi, is an effective way to challenge institutional injustice,” said Gyorgy, who serves as communications coordinator for the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in Western Massachusetts. “Nonviolence is also the best way to build the communities we need to get through crises caused by violence, racism, predatory capitalism, and climate disruption.” Nuclear power and its evil twin, nuclear weapons, have no role in the future Gyorgy has been trying to build for decades.

“Nukes just cannot compete with zero fuel cost solar and wind, and that means the era of baseload plants running on fossil and nuclear fuel is ending,” said Roy Morrison, a former Clamshell staff member who has worked for years as a commercial solar energy developer. “Solar arrays combined with energy storage from home rooftops already are acting as virtual power plants to meet utility demands for peak power.”

According to Morrison, new battery technology and plunging prices for solar will displace fuels that produce carbon dioxide. “The future for our economy and our planet lies with renewables, not nukes, oil, gas or coal,” he said.

Morrison and I first met in 1977, when were among hundreds jailed in a National Guard armory following the mass arrests at Seabrook. In 1979, when Three Mile Island melted down, we were working together in Clamshell’s scruffy second-floor suite in downtown Portsmouth. With little money and a mimeograph machine — the most advanced technology in our possession — we did battle with a complex of utility companies, banks, engineering firms, and government agencies that were doing their best to foist nukes on the American public.

When a reporter from a national news agency called for our comment on the unfolding accident in Pennsylvania, I was the one who happened to pick up the phone. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember that, at roughly the same time, Dresser Industries — the company responsible for the valve that malfunctioned at Three Mile Island — was buying pro-nuke display ads featuring Edward Teller, the physicist known as “the father of the H-bomb” and a dedicated advocate for all things nuclear.

When the news story came out, it went something like, “Physicist Edward Teller says nukes are safe, but Arnie Alpert from the Clamshell Alliance says they aren’t.” It’s a good memory, but more than that, it’s a reminder that grassroots movements engaging in what John Lewis called “good trouble” can shake up power structures and bring about change.

In the current moment, when renewable alternatives to fossil and fissile energy are urgently needed, the Clams are trying to figure out how to make it happen again.

Arnie Alpert is a longtime nonviolent action trainer in New Hampshire. He blogs at

The original article can be found here