Stop New Nuclear – assessment of a nonviolent campaign 2010–2013

The campaign Stop New Nuclear in Britain has to be seen in the wider context of plans for nuclear new build in Britain, and a very decentralised anti-nuclear energy movement in the country.

At the very latest since 2006 the UK government was pushing for the construction of up to ten new nuclear power stations in the country.

While the UK climate change movement has been quite strong and partly successful, the same cannot be said for the anti-nuclear energy movement. In addition, some influential UK environmentalists – George Monbiot, James Lovelock, to mention only two names – are promoting nuclear power as an interim solution to combating climate change.

When the UK government began promoting new nuclear, the main actors within the anti-nuclear energy movement were:

  • National environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. Both did not campaign publicly on nuclear energy. Greenpeace engaged in legal challenges (partly successful), and Friends of the Earth engaged in lobbying as part of its climate and energy work.
  • Old local groups at existing nuclear power sites, or nearby. Most of these groups were barely functioning, and some had serious generational issues – meaning they consisted mainly of people aged 60+, and were unable to engage with a younger, action-oriented movement.
  • Some small new groups and individuals with a background in nonviolent direct action, networked via the Stop Nuclear Power Network UK, which was founded in November 2009.

By late 2010/early 2011, the government had laid most of the legal basis for the construction of new nuclear power stations in Britain, and the planning procedure for Hinkley Point C – the most advanced of the new stations – was about to begin. However, there was no recent history of nonviolent action at Hinkley, even though the traditional local group was one of the better functioning ones.

The Stop New Nuclear alliance

This was the background of the launch of the alliance and campaign Stop New Nuclear (, which brought together groups from all three categories mentioned above. The thinking behind the alliance and the first campaign of the alliance is explained in the article We can stop new nuclear – if we want to!, which I wrote in December 2010.

The objectives were:

  • Making resistance to nuclear power visible (meaning – beyond behind-the-doors lobbying or legal challenges)
  • Bringing the different spectrums of the movement together with a focus on nonviolent action at Hinkley Point, the first “battleground”
  • Through visible resistance, adding another economic unknown to the construction price of nuclear power stations (which could tip the balance against nuclear)

The campaign began with a first action – a publicly announced nonviolent blockade of Hinkley Point – in October 2011, in which about 400 people participated (no arrests). This was the first anti-nuclear action which made it into the national media for probably more than a decade, and the largest anti-nuclear action for more than a decade.

The first action was followed by a second action in March 2012 – a symbolic surrounding of the nuclear site plus a 24 hour blockade. About 1000 people participated in the surround action, and about 100 in the 24 hour blockade. This time, the power company tried to obtain an injunction against the organisers in the High Court, but failed.

A third – albeit smaller – action was organised in October 2012: a publicly announced mass-trespass of the construction site (with participation only in the dozens).


  • The campaign managed to overcome the fear of the local groups about NVDA, and helped to reenergise the local group near Hinkley Point (Stop Hinkley)
  • It managed to reach out to a variety of people to take part in NVDA for the first time
  • It helped to empower some local/regional activists, who then occupied an abandoned barn on the construction site shortly before the action of March 2012
  • It raised the visibility of the anti-nuclear argument


  • The campaign failed to sustain itself, due to a lack of organisers in the core organising group, which produced burn-out. The campaign did not manage to recruit new members to the organising group, nor did it have resources for paid staff
  • The campaign did not manage to engage the larger mainstream environmental NGOs (such as Friends of the Earth).
  • The campaign did not lead to the formation of a significant number of new local groups.


Given the achievements and pitfalls, the campaign was a partial success, and is still unfinished. However, the main pitfall was the inability of the campaign to sustain itself. It always worked at the very limits of the organisers' capacity, which clearly was not sustainable.

Politically, it did make progress, and was on the right path, but was unable to maintain itself and keep going.