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Seabrook, Battleground for Nuclear Future, Reaches Full Power

July 20, 1990

SEABROOK, N.H. (AP) _ The $6.6 billion Seabrook nuclear power plant went to full power Thursday for the first time in the 22-year history of the project, a major battleground in the fight over nuclear power.

The reactor reached 1,150 megawatts, enough power for 1 million homes, at 9:52 p.m., according to plant spokesman Ron Sher.

″Reaching full power fulfills the dream we have all worked so hard to achieve,″ said Edward Brown, president of New Hampshire Yankee, the plant’s operator.

For plant opponents, the milestone was the latest in a rapid series of disappointments since the decade-late plant received its commercial operating license in March from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

″What they’re doing now is another step in the long process of the abuse of power,″ said Roy Morrison, spokesman for the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance. ″It’s a complete disregard of the public safety. The plant is unsafe. It’s operating in a place where there is no evacuation possible.″

The group will distribute leaflets at nearby Hampton Beach on Sunday, but no other protests were planned, said another Clamshell spokesman, Sam Miller.

More than 3,200 people have been arrested in anti-Seabrook protests that began even before ground was broken for the project in 1976.

Hampton Beach, a focus for Seabrook foes who argue there is no way to safely evacuate the area, was crowded with beachgoers Thursday as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

Tom McDermott, 28, of Lowell, Mass., said he felt plant operators had ″everything pretty much under control or they wouldn’t be going up to full power. I guess I’m just relying on them to take care of it, to let us know if something’s wrong.″

Gloria Flanders is a Hampton Beach regular from Amesbury, one of six Massachusetts towns within Seabrook’s 10-mile emergency zone. She said she comes to the shore on weekdays, but will avoid it on weekends, when crowds are bigger.

″A lot of people are paranoid,″ she said. ″I’m not paranoid. I’m just uncomfortable.″

Cliff Moss, co-owner of the New Yorker Bed & Breakfast, is neither. An inspector at Niagara Mohawk’s nuclear plant in Oswego, N.Y., for six years, Moss said he has confidence in Seabrook’s safety systems.

So does Jack O’Brien, whose gas station is practically in the plant’s back yard.

″Seabrook has been scrutinized under the biggest microscopes for years,″ he said. Full power ″should’ve happened eight years ago.″

Public Service Co. shelved a nuclear plant proposal in 1969, but three years later proposed Seabrook as a twin-reactor plant with a cost of less than $1 billion. Construction delays and cost increases forced owners to scrap Seabrook 2 in the mid-1980s, and pushed lead owner Public Service into bankruptcy reorganization in 1988.

As New Hampshire’s governor during the 1980s, White House Chief of Staff John Sununu played a major role in keeping the project alive.

Under the plant’s emergency plans, a summertime peak population of 247,000 would be moved out of the 10-mile emergency zone in an accident.

Critics say that’s impossible without an unacceptably high risk of exposure to radiation. Plant supporters and the NRC disagree.

One of the chief opponents is Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Massachusetts has refused to take part in emergency planning for its six communities in the emergency zone. Two of the 17 New Hampshire communities involved, Kensington and Rye, also are not participating.

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