U.S. anti-nuclear activists and community members force closure of Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, 1976-1989

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Time Period:  
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
East Shoreham, New York
Closure of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant.

In 1965 Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) president John J. Tuomy announced the intent to open a nuclear power plant in East Shoreham on Long Island New York at LILCO’s annual shareholders' meeting. Construction on the site commenced in 1973.

In 1976 local residents held their first protest against the construction of the Shoreham Plant, but details of this action are difficult to ascertain. About this time however, Nora Bredes and other local mothers began voicing specific concerns about the community’s health at local county meetings.

In 1976, following the model of the New England Clamshell Alliance, the Sound-Hudson Against Atomic Development Alliance or the SHAD Alliance, organized some 20 local antinuclear groups in the New York Area and began holding sessions and sending out publications on the dangers of nuclear power.

In the first SHAD congress in 1978 members decided that the Shoreham Reactor would be the focus of the regional campaign.

After the near meltdown of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor in Pennsylvania in March 1979, SHAD membership grew. In June of that year SHAD hosted a rally and march at the construction site of the Shoreham Plant. Organizers planned the event in conjunction with an International Antinuclear Day, and actions were held around the world.

Approximately 15,000 protesters marched at the June 4, 1979 rally. Members of SHAD and dozens of local groups attended. After speeches and music by folk singer and activist Pete Seeger on a nearby beach, activists marched to the construction site. Some 600 protesters climbed the Shoreham fence and were arrested for trespassing. A smaller group of 20 destroyed the hinges on the main gate and threw debris at LILCO employees.

SHAD dismantled in the early 1980s, but local protest of the Shoreham Plant continued. When the SHAD campaign began in 1976 only three county legislators opposed the plant. In 1983, the Suffolk County Legislature passed a resolution 15 to 1 declaring the nuclear disaster evacuation plan inadequate.

In 1981, 43 percent of Long Island residents opposed the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. By 1986 74 percent of Long Island residents opposed the plant.

Local residents continued to attend meetings and distribute fliers against the Shoreham Plant. Nora Bredes and the Shoreham Opponents Coalition remained particularly active in disseminating information and demanding political accountability.

On February 28, 1989, New York governor Mario M. Cuomo agreed with the Suffolk County Legislature and announced that the Shoreham Nuclear Plant must close. The governor and LILCO signed an agreement to shutter the plant, increasing taxes on Long Island residents to cover the $6 billion dollar costs of construction. In 1992, Shoreham was fully dismantled without generating any commercial electricity.

Research Notes

The S.H.A.D. alliance was influenced by the Clamshell Alliance of New England formed in 1975.(1) The full dismantling of the Shoreham site in 1992 inspired by public action and eventual political resistance, influenced the closure of a number of commercial nuclear power plants in the United States in the 1990s.(2)

Aron, Joan. Licensed to Kill? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Shoreham Power Plant. Ed. Bert A. Rockman. University of Pittsburgh, 1997. Print. Pitt Ser. in Policy and Institutional Studies.

Clewett, John. 1983 Nuclear Power Safety Report. Publication. Washington D.C.: Critical Mass Energy Project, 1983. Print.

Hevesi, Dennis. "Nora Bredes, Who Fought Long Island Nuclear Plant, Dies at 60." New York Times. New York Times, 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/nyregion/nora-bredes-60-dies-fought-shoreham-nuclear-plant.html>.

McCallion, Kenneth F. Shoreham and the Rise and Fall of the Nuclear Power Industry. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995. Print.

McQuiston, John T. "Shoreham Action Is One of Largest Held Worldwide." New York Times 4 June 1979. Print. Accessed through ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York TImes (1851-2007)

Price, Jerome. The Antinuclear Movement. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Print.

Ross, Jerry, and Barry M. Staw. "Organizational Escalation and Exit: Lessons from the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant." Academy of Management Journal 36.4 (1993): 701-32. Print.

S.H.A.D. Alliance Records, 1978-1983. “Historical Background” Swarthmore Peace Collection. Collection DG 142. http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG100-150/dg142shad.htm

Additional Notes: 
For more information on the anti-nuclear movement see Bill Moyer. Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2001.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Pauline Blount, 05/10/2011