Ferrel is the name of a Portuguese parish in the municipality of Peniche and the place where a nuclear power plant was to be built in the 1970s. However, this project faced strong public opposition and was cancelled due to mobilizations throughout the whole country. The local population's protests against the construction of this nuclear plant, which peaked in March 1976, gave birth to a broader movement. Even today, Portuguese civil society continues to say
"no to nuclear energy".
The residents of Ferrel started to send telegrams to various institutions and politicians as soon as they became aware of the intentions to build a nuclear
plant in the area. They also watched as the construction of the plant began, which increased the tension in the air. Through the telegrams, the people
expressed their opposition to the construction and warned that they would use all legal means to stop it. Yet, answers never came and none of the politicians made a statement on this matter. On March 15, 1976, in the demonstration that halted the construction work, protestors argued that nuclear energy poses arisk to human health and the environment. On the same day, the people gathered in the Ferrel church square, and to the sound of its bells, marched to Moinho Velho - the intended location for the plant - to demand that construction be stopped. They managed to paralyze the works, close the ditches that had been
opened, and destroy the equipment in use. At the end of the action, they warned that if the works were to begin again, they would return to destroy everything all over again.
The impacts of the people of Ferrel’s actions were felt at the local and national level. They inspired numerous other protests against nuclear power, as the government continued defending its viability. The support committee for the fight against the nuclear threat (Comissão de Apoio à Luta Contra a Ameaça
Nuclear, CALCAN) was established in the Peniche region. In February 1977, the movement Viver é Preciso (To Live is Necessary) launched an appeal entitled "We are all residents of Ferrel" to contest the pro-nuclear policies adopted by the government at that time. The following year, approximately 3,000 people came together to attend the Festival pela Vida e Contra o Nuclear (Festival Yes to Life, No to Nuclear Power) in Caldas da Rainha.
Another remarkable example of how Portuguese society has mobilized against the nuclear power issue were the conflicts that emerged in 1987 and, again, in 1998, when demonstrations were held in opposition to the Spanish government's plan to install a nuclear waste storage facility in Aldeadávila de La Ribera, in the Douro basin, near the Portuguese border.
In 2006, after decades with no visible advances on the nuclear issue in Portugal, a lobby emerged with the goal of relaunching the drive for nuclear energy. Its
public announcement reactivated the anti-nuclear movement, which celebrated its 30 years of resistance in Ferrel. This tribute served to reaffirm, once again, the people’s opposition to nuclear power plants in Portugal, and to call for the adoption of alternative and renewable energy sources.
In 2015, the Iberian Anti-Nuclear Movement was created, which demands the closure of the nuclear
plants on the Iberian Peninsula. It also addresses other issues related to the nuclear industry, such as uranium mining and waste management.