The Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, more commonly known as Seabrook Station, is a nuclear power plant located in Seabrook, New Hampshire, United States, approximately 40 miles (64 km) north of Boston and 10 miles (16 km) south of Portsmouth. Two units (reactors) were planned, but the second unit was never completed due to construction delays, cost overruns and troubles obtaining financing. The construction permit for the plant was granted in 1976, and construction on Unit 1 was completed in 1986. Full power operation of Unit 1 began in 1990. Unit 2 has been canceled and most of its major components sold to other plants. With its 1,244-megawatt electrical output, Seabrook Unit 1 is the largest individual electrical generating unit on the New England power grid. It is the second largest nuclear plant in New England after the two-unit Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Connecticut.


The construction of Seabrook Station was completed ten years later than expected, with a cost approaching $7 billion. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) described its own regulatory oversight of Seabrook as "a paradigm of fragmented and uncoordinated government decision making," and "a system strangling itself and the economy in red tape."[2] The large debt involved led to the bankruptcy of Seabrook's major utility owner, Public Service Company of New Hampshire.[3] At the time, this was the fourth largest bankruptcy in United States corporate history.[4]

A second reactor was proposed in 1972 and cancelled in 1988.[5] It was 22% complete.

The plant was originally owned by more than 10 separate utility companies serving five New England states. In 2002, most sold their shares to FPL Energy (a subsidiary of FPL Group), later known as NextEra Energy Resources. NextEra Energy now owns 88.2% of Seabrook Station. The remaining portion is owned by municipal utilities in Massachusetts. The station is one of five nuclear generating facilities operated by FPL Group. The other four are St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant and Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station operated by sister company Florida Power & Light (a regulated utility), and the Duane Arnold Energy Center and Point Beach Nuclear Generating Station operated by NextEra Energy.

In 2005, a security fence installed by a subcontracted engineering firm the previous year failed a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection and was declared inoperable.[6] In 2006, the owner of the plant, FPL Energy Seabrook LLC, was fined $65,000 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since "both design of the system and testing procedures did not adhere to NRC guidelines".[7]

During the 2008 presidential election, Republican nominee John McCain mentioned the possibility of building the once-planned second reactor at Seabrook. The idea drew cautious support from some officials, but would be difficult due to financial and regulatory reasons.[8]

In 2017, due to the steady drop in value of nuclear power plants including Seabrook Station, the town of Seabrook enacted a 9.9 percent tax increase to offset the decrease in tax revenue collected from the plant's owner, NextEra Energy.[9]

In February 2018, a magnitude 2.7 earthquake occurred approximately 10 miles from Seabrook Station, but the quake didn't trigger any emergency procedures or result in any signs of structural damage to the plant.[10]


Seabrook Station behind the Blackwater River seen from Route 1A in Seabrook, New Hampshire

In 2010, the plant applied to have its operating license extended from 2030 to 2050.[11] In September 2012, Massachusetts Reps. Edward Markey and John F. Tierney filed HR 6554, titled the "Nuclear Reactor Safety First Act".[12] The bill would prevent nuclear plants from receiving 20-year license extensions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission if they apply more than 10 years before their current 40-year licenses expire. The legislation was specifically aimed at Seabrook Station, which is currently experiencing aging-related problems 22 years into its operating license. The representatives have asserted that granting the plant a license extension covering operation from 2030 to 2050 based on inspections done in 2012 is illogical. They believe that inspection dates more than 10 years before the expiration of the current license are too far from the dates of validity for the extension and therefore may miss additional age-related problems that may occur in the future.

In February 2012, there were safety concerns about concrete degradation at the plant. Concrete surrounding an electric control tunnel at the nuclear plant had lost almost 22 percent of its strength and was showing signs of an alkali–silica reaction (ASR) because of more than a decade of ground-water infiltration, according to an NRC inspection report released in May 2011. A growing chorus of local politicians were "urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt the relicensing process for Seabrook Station until a long-term solution is implemented".[13]

In June 2017, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials "reviewed numerous documents and inspected the plant as it gauges NextEra’s safety plan to monitor and manage the alkali-silica reaction phenomenon present in concrete throughout the power plant".[14] In October 2017, federal regulators allowed the non-profit nuclear watchdog group C-10 to weigh in on the license amendment request.[15] The NRC has committed to finishing its review of the license amendment request concerning the alkali-silica reaction phenomenon by the third quarter of 2018.

Community impact

In 2013, the Nuclear Energy Institute released a study showing the positive impact of Seabrook Station on the economy and environment. Key findings are listed below.[16]

  • Seabrook Station directly employs 650 people that earn more than double the average number of workers in Rockingham County and Strafford County
  • Seabrook Station generates approximately 40 percent of New Hampshire's total electricity, and its emission-free operation helps avoid the emission of nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is the equivalent of taking almost 700,000 cars off the road
  • Seabrook Station contributes $535 million of economic activity locally and contributes $1.4 billion to the U.S. economy each year, and for every dollar of output from Seabrook Station, the local economy produced $1.34
  • Seabrook Station's financial contributions to local environmental groups over the previous decade amounted to more than $1 million

Public opposition

In the eight years before construction started at Seabrook, residents had opposed the plant before regulatory agencies and in a town meeting vote. Spurred on by the failure of these methods, and the success of a large anti-nuclear site occupation in Whyl, Germany, local people formed the Clamshell Alliance.[17]

On August 1, 1976, 600 protestors rallied at the Seabrook Station construction site. In May 1977, more than 2,000 protestors, including 1,400 members of the Clamshell Alliance, occupied the site. Of the protestors, 1,414 were arrested and held for two weeks after most refused bail.[17][18]

Another vocal opponent of the plant was then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who blocked the opening for several years due to environmental issues as well as concern about emergency evacuation plans. The NRC had stipulated that workable evacuation plans needed to be in place for all towns within a 10-mile (16 km) radius of the plant. Four Massachusetts towns were within the ten-mile radius, and thus Governor Dukakis' approval of evacuation plans was required.[4]

A lawsuit complaining that the NPP would cause thermal pollution was launched by anti-nuclear opposition. This was rejected without merit, but it delayed construction by 7.5 months.[19] These protests and lawsuits are the reason the plant cost double initial estimates.[19]

In September 2017, activist Steve Comley Sr. along with his non-profit "We The People" paid for an electronic billboard in Salisbury, Massachusetts allegedly warning of the absence of an evacuation plan in the event of an accident at Seabrook Station.[20] In January 2018, the town of Merrimac, Massachusetts joined half a dozen other communities "calling for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a hearing on whether the Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant's evacuation plan can be effectively implemented".[21] In response, NextEra Energy released the following statement:[22]

We have extensive emergency response systems in place, including numerous back-up safety systems that provide our plants with layer upon layer of both automated and manual protection. Also, we work collaboratively with local, state and federal officials on a regular basis to ensure our plans are comprehensive and effective and continue to refine. These most recent claims by ‘We the People’ and Mr. Comley are completely without merit. Mr. Comley has a long history of making false allegations and baseless claims against Seabrook. Independent agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have reviewed his claims and allegations and have found them to be without substance.

Accident analysis

Seabrook Station seen from Powwow Hill in nearby Amesbury, Massachusetts

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[23] The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Seabrook was 118,747, an increase of 10.1 percent in a decade. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 4,315,571, an increase of 8.7 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include Boston (40 miles to city center).[24]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Seabrook was 1 in 45,455, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.[25]


  1. ^ "EIA - State Nuclear Profiles". www.eia.gov. 
  2. ^ quoted by US EPA Commissioner Kennedy, in [Decisions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency], v.1 p.490.
  3. ^ Daniels, Lee A. (January 29, 1988). "Bankruptcy Filed by Leading Utility in Seabrook Plant". The New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Gunter, Paul (January 1990). "Clamshell Alliance: Thirteen Years of Anti-Nuclear Activism at Seabrook, New Hampshire, U.S.A.". Ecologia Newsletter. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  5. ^ Nuclear Power Generation and Fuel Cycle Report 1997 p. 67.
  6. ^ Haberman, Shir (May 24, 2005). "Nuke Plant Fence was Inoperable". The Portsmouth Herald. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  7. ^ Haberman, Shir (July 28, 2006). "Nuke Plant Facing Fine of $65K". The Portsmouth Herald. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  8. ^ Cook, Robert M. (July 24, 2008). "Seabrook Station not Ready for McCain's Nuclear Plans". The Portsmouth Herald. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  9. ^ Chiaramida, Angeljean (November 22, 2017). "Seabrook Tax Rate Surges 9.9% as Nuke Plant's Value Declines". The Portsmouth Herald. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  10. ^ Atkinson, Dan (February 16, 2018). "Quake Rattles Anti-Nuclear Activists in N.H." The Boston Herald. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 
  11. ^ Lamonica, Martin (October 1, 2010). "Nukes 101: Up Close and Personal with Nuclear Power". CNET. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  12. ^ Edward Markey (September 26, 2012). "Reps. Tierney, Markey Introduce Legislation to Ensure Safety of Nuclear Plants for Local Families". 
  13. ^ Brenda J. (February 9, 2012). "Local leaders question safety of Seabrook power plant". Boston Globe. 
  14. ^ Chiaramida, Angeljean (August 3, 2017). "NRC Reviews Seabrook Nuclear Plant". The Portsmouth Herald. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  15. ^ Moon, Jason (October 10, 2017). "Watchdog Group Allowed to Weigh in on Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant Review". New Hampshire Public Radio. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  16. ^ Staff Writer (November 2013). "Economic Impact of NextEra Energy's Seabrook Station". Nuclear Energy Institute. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Steve E. Barkan. Strategic, Tactical and Organizational Dilemmas of the protest Movement Against Nuclear Power Social Problems, Vol. 27, No. 1, October 1979, p. 24.
  18. ^ "The Siege of Seabrook - TIME". Time. May 16, 1977. 
  19. ^ a b Morris, Robert C. (2000). The environmental case for nuclear power : economic, medical, and political considerations. St. Paul, Minn.: Paragon House. pp. 171–2. ISBN 1-557-78780-8. 
  20. ^ McGonigle, Bryan (September 12, 2017). "Activist Posts Billboard Warning About Seabrook Nuclear Plant". The Ipswich Chronicle. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  21. ^ Lodge, Richard K. (January 17, 2018). "Merrimac Seeks NRC Hearing on Seabrook Plan". Gloucester Daily Times. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  22. ^ Lodge, Richard K. (January 20, 2018). "NextEra Spokesman: Company 'Uncompromising' with Safety; Disputes Comley's Claims". The Daily News of Newburyport. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  23. ^ Staff Writer (February 17, 2017). "Backgrounder on Emergency Preparedness at Nuclear Power Plants". Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 
  24. ^ Dedman, Bill (April 14, 2011). "Nuclear Neighbors: Population Rises Near U.S. Reactors". NBC News. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 
  25. ^ Dedman, Bill (March 17, 2011). "What are the Odds? US Nuke Plants Ranked by Quake Risk". NBC News. Retrieved February 24, 2018. 

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