SEABROOK, N.H. – Paul Gunter steps out of his Jeep in a near-empty parking lot off Seabrook’s Ocean Boulevard, unfolds his 6-foot-7-inch frame and tugs the bill of a well-worn cap against the sun. Behind him, anglers hang lines into Hampton Harbor from a nearby pier, and kayakers and swimmers play in the water. They take no notice of the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant, which looms from the other shore.

But Gunter notices, and has noticed for more than 40 years now. It was in 1976, at a picnic table near here, that he and a small band of like-minded citizens formed the Clamshell Alliance, one of the nation’s oldest and most active anti-nuclear groups.

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All this as President Richard Nixon, in 1973, pledged to make the U.S. energy-independent by building 1,000 nuclear power plants – touted by proponents as a source of clean, inexpensive energy – by the year 2000.

Gunter and his associates mobilized. They named their movement for the environmentally sensitive marshes and clam beds that bordered the planned site of the Seabrook plant. They pledged to oppose all nuclear power in New England and, along the way, became a model for the mass nonviolent anti-nuke demonstrations that swept across the country.

The movement was successful. One Seabrook reactor was ultimately completed, but 10 years after its initially projected startup and at a $7 billion cost that bankrupted the public utility group behind the endeavor. A second planned reactor at Seabrook was never built.