Clamshell Alliance

Clamshell Alliance

The Clamshell Alliance is an anti-nuclear organization co-founded by Paul Gunter, Howie Hawkins, Harvey Wasserman, Guy Chichester and other activists in 1976. The alliance's coalescence began in 1975 as New England activists and organizations began to respond to U.S. President Richard Nixon's "Project Independence" which sought to build 1000 nuclear power plants by 2000.

The group conducted non-violent demonstrations against nuclear power in New England in the late 1970s and 1980s. In May, 1977 over 2,000 Clamshell protesters occupied the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant construction site. 1,414 of these activists were arrested and held in jails and National Guard armories for up to two weeks after refusing bail.[1]

In 2007, veterans of the Clamshell Alliance marked the 30th anniversary of its founding with the creation of a website called, "To the Village Square: Nukes, Clams and Democracy", which relates the story of the Clamshell Alliance and why it matters today.[2] The Clamshell Alliance opposes all nuclear power in New England.



In July 1976 the Clamshell Alliance adopted a Declaration of Nuclear Resistance as a guiding set of principles in a meeting of 60-75 activists.

The alliance conducted non-violent demonstrations in the late 1970s and 1980s. On August 1, 1976, 18 New Hampshire residents were arrested for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in Clamshell's first civil disobedience action on the Seabrook site.[3] Three weeks later, a second occupation involved 180 New England residents who were arrested and held in a local armory overnight. In May, 1977 over 2,000 protesters occupied the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant construction site. 1,414 of these activists were arrested[4] and held in jails and National Guard armories for up to two weeks after refusing bail.[3] Clamshell activists used this detention for training and networking, and long considered the detention a blunder on the part of Republican Governor Meldrim Thomson, Jr.[1]

Richard Asinof wrote:

The overwhelming success of the Clamshell Alliance's occupation can be attributed to three factors; the planning and leadership of the Clamshell Alliance itself; the strength of the affinity group and the spirit and discipline of the occupiers; and the strong impact that women in key leadership roles exerted on the events. [1]

In later years, New Hampshire authorities minimized the impact of mass civil disobedience at the Seabrook plant by treating activist trespass as a violation, and allowing community service in lieu of fine. Actions were still media events capable of swaying public opinion, but their larger impact was limited. Clamshell Alliance members attempted to have their actions taken more seriously by the courts, and began staging sit-ins of the office of Republican Governor Judd Gregg. While this action resulted in jail time for criminal trespass, the local courts would not rule on the question of "competing harms" or the "Right of Revolution" granted by the New Hampshire Constitution. Activist Guy Chichester eventually sawed down a Seabrook Station emergency warning siren pole, resulting in charges of "criminal mischief", a Class B felony.[5] Although there was no doubt that he had cut down the pole, Chichester was acquitted. In his appeal Chichester's lawyer Patrick Fleming argued that according to article 10 of the N.H. state constitution, any citizen has a right to act to protect his or herself when the state fails to do so, which is known as the "Right of Revolution:"

[Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

The Clamshell Alliance was an inspiration to other communities who wished to organize opposition to nuclear power plants. Hundreds of groups with similar names, such as the Abalone Alliance in California, adopted similar non-violent organizing techniques to oppose nuclear power and nuclear weapons around the country and internationally.[3]


Public Service Company of New Hampshire, the utility with majority ownership of the Seabrook Station, was bankrupted by the project. Governor Hugh J. Gallen had signed legislation prohibiting the utility from billing consumers for the costs of construction work in progress (CWIP), and the Three Mile Island accident had increased awareness and added the requirement for an evacuation plan prior to commissioning. In the end, only one of the two planned reactors went on line.

In 2007, veterans of the Clamshell Alliance marked the 30th anniversary of its founding with the creation of a website called, "To the Village Square: Nukes, Clams and Democracy", which relates the story of the Clamshell Alliance and why it matters today. In addition, a book and a travelling exhibit are planned.[2]

In the 1997 film Grosse Pointe Blank, a Clamshell Alliance poster hangs on the bedroom wall of Minnie Driver's character. The poster was created in the fall of 1976 for a Clamshell-sponsored Alternative Energy Fair near the site of the Seabrook plant. This event followed the initial Clamshell civil disobedience actions of August 1 and August 22 of that year.

The Clamshell Alliance is humorously referenced in Arlo Guthrie's song "The Story of Reuben Clamzo and His Strange Daughter in the Key of A" released in 1978 on the album One Night as an organization of citizens fighting off invasions of gigantic walking clams in Colonial America.

See also


  1. ^ a b The Siege of Seabrook
  2. ^ a b To the Village Square
  3. ^ a b c Mark Hertsgaard (1983). Nuclear Inc. The Men and Money Behind Nuclear Energy, Pantheon Books, New York, p. 74.
  4. ^ Michael Kenney. Tracking the protest movements that had roots in New England The Boston Globe, December 30, 2009.
  5. ^ Guy Chichester, Clamshell Alliance Co-Founder, 1935-2009

External links

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