Seabrook Station: Citizen Politics and Nuclear Power

By Henry F. Bedford | Go to book overview

1 Introduction

"What can you do with a dead dinosaur?"

The emotional thermometer at the Philadelphia headquarters of United Engineers and Constructors registered something close to angry early in 1977. Over several years, the firm had dedicated almost two and a half million skilled and costly hours to the design of the nuclear power station eleven New England utilities proposed to build at Seabrook, New Hampshire. The plant responded to a local need for cheap electricity and the national need for reliable energy not derived from petroleum, which in New England tended to be imported and expensive. Construction would provide a profitable market for dozens of industries and employment for thousands of people at a moment when the nation's economy could use a boost. But Lilliputian lawyers and bureaucrats, exploiting a perverse governmental process, were combining to withhold this Gulliver-sized bonanza from the public. The "saga," wrote the company's director of licensing to one of those governmental functionaries, was, for an "initiate," "a technical and economic nightmare"; for the "outsider," it was "an absolutely incomprehensible enigma." "We, who have spent our professional lives in the fathering and raising of the nuclear industry," H. L. Bermanis continued, "are beginning to despair," a reaction triggered in part by "the apparent indifference of the federal establishment."

Thomas Dahl, who was a couple of rungs up the corporate ladder from Bermanis, tried to enlist the governor of Pennsylvania in an effort to break through that perceived federal indifference. Perhaps Governor Milton Shapp, a Democrat, might be able to prod the administration of incoming Democratic President Jimmy Carter to develop a rational licensing policy for nuclear power plants. Dahl itemized Pennsylvania's stake in the Seabrook project: about $300 million in contracts, a thou-

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Seabrook Station: Citizen Politics and Nuclear Power
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Chronology xvii
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - The Environment 31
  • 3 - The Opposition 64
  • 4 - Money and Management 94
  • 5 - Emergency Planning 125
  • 6 - Conclusion 162
  • Epilogue 200
  • Notes 203
  • Index 217
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