Anti-nuclear protests in the United States

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This is a list of notable anti-nuclear protests in the United States. Many anti-nuclear campaigns captured national public attention in the 1970s and 1980s, including those at Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and those following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.[1]

The largest anti-nuclear demonstration to date was held in New York City on September 23, 1979 when almost 200,000 people attended. The New York rally was held in conjunction with a series of nightly “No Nukes” concerts given at Madison Square Garden from September 19 through 23.

Anti-nuclear protests preceded the shutdown of the Shoreham, Yankee Rowe, Millstone I, Rancho Seco, Maine Yankee, and about a dozen other nuclear power plants.[2]

Protests in recent years have focused mainly on Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Naval Base Kitsap, Nevada Test Site and several proposed nuclear reactors.

Bodega Bay

Pacific Gas & Electric planned to build the first commercially viable nuclear power plant in the USA at Bodega Bay, a fishing village fifty miles north of San Francisco. The proposal was controversial and conflict with local citizens began in 1958.[3] In 1963 there was a large demonstration at the site of the proposed Bodega Bay Nuclear Power Plant.[4] The conflict ended in 1964, with the forced abandonment of plans for the power plant. Attempts to build a nuclear power plant in Malibu were similar to those at Bodega Bay and were also abandoned.[3]

Montague Nuclear Power Plant

On 22 February 1974, Washington's Birthday, organic farmer Sam Lovejoy took a crowbar to the weather-monitoring tower which had been erected at the Montague Nuclear Power Plant site. Lovejoy felled 349 feet of the 550 foot tower and then took himself to the local police station, where he presented a statement in which he took full responsibility for the action. Lovejoy's action galvanized local public opinion against the plant.[5][6] The Montague nuclear power plant proposal was canceled in 1980,[7] after $29 million was spent on the project.[5]

Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant

Seabrook power plant was proposed as a twin-reactor plant in 1972, at an estimated cost of $973 million. When it finally won a commercial license in March 1990, it was a single reactor which cost $6.5 billion.[8] Over a period of thirteen years, more than 4,000 citizens committed nonviolent civil disobedience at Seabrook:[9]

  • August 1, 1976: 200 residents rallied at the future Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant site in New Hampshire, and 18 were arrested for criminal trespass.[9]
  • August 22, 1976: 188 activists from New England were arrested at the Seabrook site.[9][10]
  • May 2, 1977: 1,414 protesters were arrested at Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant.[11][2][12] The protesters who were arrested were expected to be "released on their own recognizance", but this did not happen. Instead, they were charged with criminal trespass and asked to post bail ranging from $100 to $500. They refused and were then held in five national guard armories for 12 days. The Seabrook conflict, and role of New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson, received much national media coverage.[13]
  • May 13, 1977: 550 protestors were freed after being detained for thirteen days.[14]
  • June 1978: some 12,000 people attended a protest at Seabrook.[2][12]
  • May 25-27 1980: Police use tear gas, riot sticks and dogs to drive 2,000 demonstrators away from the Seabrook site.[15]
  • May 24, 1986: 74 anti-nuclear demonstrators were arrested in protests.[16][17]
  • October 17, 1988: 84 people were arrested at the Seabrook plant.[18]
  • June 5, 1989: hundreds of demonstrators protested against the plant's first low-power testing, and the police arrested 627 people for trespassing; two state legislators, one from Massachusetts and one from New Hampshire, protested.[19][9]

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

  • August 6, 1977: The Abalone Alliance held the first blockade at Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California, and 47 people were arrested.[20]
  • August 1978: almost 500 people were arrested for protesting at Diablo Canyon.[20]
  • April 8, 1979: 30,000 people marched in San Francisco to support shutting down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.[21]
  • June 30, 1979: about 40,000 people attended a protest rally at Diablo Canyon.[22]
  • September 1981: more than 900 protesters were arrested at Diablo Canyon.[23][20]
  • May 1984: about 130 demonstrators showed up for start-up day at Diablo Canyon, and five were arrested.[24]

Three Mile Island accident

Even before the Three Mile Island accident, the nuclear industry was facing considerable adverse public opinion. A "sizeable and tenacious opposition movement had caused significant delays" in the licensing and construction of new power plants in the United States. The TMI accident stimulated a rise in anti-nuclear sentiment.[25]

The American public were concerned about the release of radioactive gas from the Three Mile Island accident and many mass demonstrations took place across the country in the following months. The largest one was held in New York City in September 1979 and involved two hundred thousand people; speeches were given by Jane Fonda and Ralph Nader.[26][27][28] The New York rally was held in conjunction with a series of nightly “No Nukes” concerts given at Madison Square Garden from September 19 through 23 by Musicians United for Safe Energy.

In the previous May, an estimated 65,000 people, including the Governor of California, attended a march and rally against nuclear power in Washington, D.C.[21][27]

Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant

Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant

  • August 12, 1978: Forty protesters are arrested at the first anti-Shoreham demonstration.[32][33]
  • 1989: after many years of protests, the completed Shoreham plant was closed without generating any commercial electrical power.[34][36]

Rocky Flats Plant

  • April 28, 1979: 15,000 people demonstrated against the Rocky Flats Nuclear Processing Plant in Colorado, making the link between nuclear power and nuclear weaponry.[37][38]
  • October 15, 1983: Large demonstration at Rocky Flats.[39][40]
  • August, 1989: An estimated 3,500 people turned out for a demonstration at Rocky Flats.[40]

Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant

In 1979, Abalone Alliance members held a 38-day sit-in in the Californian Governor Jerry Brown's office to protest continued operation of Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, which was a duplicate of the Three Mile Island facility.[41] In 1989, Sacremento voters voted to shut down the Rancho Seco power plant.[42]

Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant

Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant, shut down in 1992, had years of protests by environmentalists.[43]

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant

In the 1970s and 1980s there were many protests at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant which attempted to block access to the plant.[44]

  • September 23, 1979: some 167 protesters were arrested at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.[12]
  • January 2006: 100 anti-nuclear supporters demonstrated at the front door of Entergy Nuclear, and eleven people were arrested for trespassing.[45][46]
  • October 2006: 26 people were arrested outside the Brattleboro offices of owner Entergy Nuclear; the demonstration drew about 200 people.[47][48]
  • April 27, 2007: Seven anti-nuclear activists were arrested after chaining themselves to a fence at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The protesters, who call themselves the "Raging Grannies", wanted the plant shut down and have engaged in dozens of similar actions since December 2005.[49]
  • November 2008: About 15 people held a rowdy protest against Vermont Yankee in the offices of the Public Service Board that regulates utilities.[50][51]
  • April 2009: A rally and two full-page advertisements in The Burlington Free Press, which mocked the Vermont Yankee Power Plant, were paid for by a newly formed group, The Clean Green Vermont Alliance.[52]
  • April 2009: About 150 activists marched from Montpelier's City Hall to the State House to urge lawmakers to back development of clean energy sources such as wind power and solar power; the marchers had gathered 12,000 signatures in support of closing Vermont Yankee.[53][54]
  • September 2009: Frances Crowe and three other women were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.[55]
  • January 2010: A coalition of anti-nuclear activists participated in a 126-mile walk from Brattleboro to Montpelier in an effort to block the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee. About 175 people took part in the March, some joining for the day and some for longer stretches.[56]

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament

In 1986, hundreds of people walked from Los Angeles to Washington DC in what is referred to as the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. The march took nine months to traverse Template:Convert, advancing approximately fifteen miles per day.[57]

Naval Base Kitsap

There have been anti-nuclear protests at Naval Base Kitsap for many years.[58] Recent protests include:

  • January 19, 2008: Seventeen people protesting about nuclear weapons at Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor in honor of Martin Luther King. Jr. were detained or arrested. All were released shortly afterward.[59]
  • May 30, 2008: Twelve people were arrested at an anti-nuclear weapon demonstration at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor — five of them for walking on a sidewalk closed to pedestrian traffic.[60]

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

  • June 22, 1982: More than 1,300 anti-nuclear protesters were arrested in a nonviolent demonstration.[61]
  • There is an annual protest against U.S. nuclear weapons research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. In the 2007 protest, 64 people were arrested.[62] More than 80 people were arrested in March 2008 while protesting at the gates of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.[63]

Nevada Test Site

From 1986 through 1994, two years after the United States put a hold on full-scale nuclear weapons testing, 536 demonstrations were held at the Nevada Test Site involving 37,488 participants and 15,740 arrests, according to government records.[64] These are just a few details:

  • January, 1987: The actor Martin Sheen and 71 other anti-nuclear protesters were arrested at the Nevada Test Site in a demonstration marking the 36th anniversary of the first nuclear test there.[65]
  • February 6, 1987: More than 400 people were arrested, when they tried to enter the nation's nuclear proving grounds after nearly 2,000 demonstrators, including six members of Congress, held a rally to protest nuclear weapons testing.[66][67]
  • September 30, 1987: 110 demonstrators, including seven pediatricians, were arrested for civil disobedience; charges were later dropped.[68]
  • March 20, 1989: 75 protesters, including Louis Vitale, were arrested for trespassing in a peaceful Palm Sunday demonstration.[69]
  • April 20, 1992: 493 anti-nuclear protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges, as demonstrators clashed with guards at an annual Easter demonstration against weapons testing at the remote desert site.[70]
  • August 6, 1995: 500 people gathered to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.[71]
  • 1997: Over 2,000 people turned out for a demonstration and 700 were arrested.[72]
  • August 2005: About 200 peace activists, including actor Martin Sheen, gathered for a nonviolent demonstration outside the gates; dozens were given citations and released after crossing police lines.[73]
  • May 2006: 200 activists protested the Divine Strake explosives test, and 40 were arrested.[74]
  • April 2007: Nevada Desert Experience protest, where 39 people were cited by police.[75]


See also


  1. Giugni, Marco (2004). Social Protest and Policy Change: Ecology, Antinuclear, and Peace Movements p. 44.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Williams, Estha. Nuke Fight Nears Decisive Moment Valley Advocate, August 28, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Paula Garb. Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958-1978 (book review) Journal of Political Ecology, Vol 6, 1999.
  4. Office of Technology Assessment. (1984). Public Attitudes Toward Nuclear Power p. 231.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Utilites Drop Nuclear Power Plant Plans Ocala Star-Banner, January 4, 1981.
  6. No nukes by Anna Gyorgy pp. 393-394.
  7. Some of the Major Events in NU's History Since the 1966 Affiliation
  8. 30 years later, another nuclear struggle looms The Daily News, April 30, 2007.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Gunter, Paul. Clamshell Alliance: Thirteen Years of Anti-Nuclear Activism at Seabrook, New Hampshire, U.S.A.Ecologia Newsletter, January 1990 Issue 3.
  10. Seabrook, NH Nuclear Plant Occupation Page
  11. Michael Kenney. Tracking the protest movements that had roots in New England The Boston Globe, December 30, 2009.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Williams, Eesha. Wikipedia distorts nuclear history Rutland Herald, May 1, 2008.
  13. William A. Gamson and Andre Modigliani. Media Coverage and Public Opinion on Nuclear Power, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 95, No. 1, July 1989, p. 17.
  14. The Legacy of Seabrook
  15. Hartford Courant
  16. Anti-Nuclear Protesters Freed in New Hampshire
  17. New Hampshire / Anti-Nuclear Demonstration
  18. 84 Arrested in Protest At the Seabrook Plant
  19. Gold, Allan R. Hundreds Arrested Over Seabrook Test New York Times, June 5, 1989.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Social Protest and Policy Change p. 44.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Amplifying Public Opinion: The Policy Impact of the U.S. Environmental Movement p. 7.
  22. Gottlieb, Robert (2005). Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, Revised Edition, Island Press, USA, p. 240.
  23. Arrests Exceed 900 In Coast Nuclear Protest New York Times, September 18, 1981.
  24. Testing and Protesting Time, May 14, 1984.
  25. David S. Sills et al. (1982). Accident at Three Mile Island: The Human Dimensions, Westview Press, p. 11.
  26. Interest Group Politics In America p. 149.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Social Protest and Policy Change p. 45.
  28. [ "Nearly 200,000 Rally to Protest Nuclear Energy"], , (September 24, 1979).
  29. Anti-Nuclear Demonstrations
  30. Energy officials say nuclear power comeback not likely to happen
  31. Carrie Dickerson Foundation
  32. 32.0 32.1 Saga Behind the Shoreham Nuclear Plant Retold
  33. Shoreham and the rise and fall of the nuclear power industry p. 6.
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Lights Out at Shoreham", , (2007-05-29).
  35. Shoreham Action Is One of Largest Held Worldwide; 15,000 Protest L.I. Atom Plant; 600 Seized 600 Arrested on L.I. as 15,000 Protest at Nuclear Plant Nuclear Supporter on Hand Governor Stresses Safety Thousands Protest Worldwide New York Times, June 4, 1979.
  36. Planning the Fate of a Nuclear Plant’s Land New York Times, January 1, 2009.
  37. Nonviolent Social Movements p. 295.
  38. Headline: Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant / Protest
  39. Headline: Colorado / Anti-Nuclear Demonstration
  40. 40.0 40.1 Activists fail to encircle Rocky Flats/ Too few join hands in symbolic protest
  41. Hippy Dictionary p.559.
  42. Frank Trippett and Robert W. Hollis. Shutting Down Rancho Seco TIME, June 19, 1989.
  43. Nuclear Shutdown Funds Are Questioned
  44. David C. Brody, James R. Acker, Wayne A. Logan (2001). Criminal law Jones & Bartlett Publishers, p. 276.
  45. Eleven arrested in latest protest over Vermont Yankee
  46. Yankee Protesters Arrested
  47. Vermont Yankee nuke plant's critics still at it, 34 years later
  48. Vermont Yankee Resistance Grows
  49. Seven arrested during nuke protest at Vermont Yankee
  50. Protesters stink up state utility board offices
  51. Protesters stink up state utility board offices
  52. Anti-nuclear campaign opens with spoof
  53. Nuclear power foes not stilled in N.E.
  54. Activists stage anti-nuclear rally
  55. Eeesha Williams. Protesters Arrested at Vermont Yankee Valley Post, September 29, 2009.
  56. Anti-nuclear protesters reach capitol Rutland Herald, January 14, 2010.
  57. Hundreds of Marchers Hit Washington in Finale of Nationwaide Peace March Gainsville Sun, November 16, 1986.
  58. For decades, faith has sustained anti-nuclear movement
  59. Bangor Protest Peaceful; 17 Anti-Nuclear Demonstrators Detained and Released
  60. Twelve Arrests, But No Violence at Bangor Anti-Nuclear Protest
  61. 1,300 Arrested in California Anti-nuclear Protest
  62. Police arrest 64 at California anti-nuclear protest Reuters, April 6, 2007.
  63. Scores arrested during protest at Livermore Lab
  64. Western Shoshone spiritual leader dies
  65. Actor and Other Protesters Arrested at Nuclear Test Site
  66. 438 Protesters are Arrested at Nevada Nuclear Test Site
  67. Biggest Demonstration Yet at Test Site
  68. Assembly-line arrests
  69. 75 Protesters Arrested
  70. 493 Arrested at Nevada Nuclear Test Site
  71. Growing in Christian Morality by Julia Ahlers, Barbara Allaire, Carl Koch p. 242.
  72. Discourse analysis by Brian Paltridge p. 188.
  73. Survivors Join Activists, Call for Ban on Nukes on Anniversary of Atomic Blasts
  74. Activists arrested at Nevada Test Site
  75. Anti-nuclear rally held at test site: Martin Sheen among activists cited by police
  76. Lance Murdoch. Pictures: New York MayDay anti-nuke/war march IndyMedia, 2 may 2005.
  77. Anti-Nuke Protests in New York Fox News, May 2, 2005.
  78. Protest against nuclear reactor Chicago Tribune, October 16, 2008.
  79. Southeast Climate Convergence occupies nuclear facility Indymedia UK, August 8, 2008.


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