In the wake of Fukushima, grassroots citizen action is shutting the worldwide nuclear power industry.
A Solartopian tipping point is upon us in the US, Europe and Japan which will re-define how the human race gets its energy.
States rights and local democracy are at the core of the battle.
The definitive breaking point looms in Vermont.
By mid-March a state board is likely to deny the Yankee reactor licenses to operate or to create radioactive waste .
If that happens, a Vermont shutdown could mark a critical moment in establishing state power over an atomic reactor. A critical domino would fall---as it has in Japan and Europe---and we will begin taking down old reactors all across the US. Four new reactors barely under construction will go down with them, making inevitable the end America's age of atomic power.
In Vermont, the New Orleans-based Entergy bought the Yankee reactor in 2002. Entergy agreed to shut it if the state's Public Service Board denied it a Certificate of Public Good to continue to operate and generate radioactive waste.
That decision is due by March 21, the forty-year anniversary of the reactor's 1972 opening.
Entergy has horrified many of its staunchest Green Mountain supporters. One of its cooling towers has simply collapsed from ancient rot and basic negligence. It has leaked tritium and other radioactive isotopes from pipes the company has said---under oath---do not exist.
Entergy sued Vermont after the legislature voted (26 to 4) to shut the reactor. When its lawyers won in federal court, Entergy demanded the public pay it $4 million in legal fees.
But the company miscalculated. It welcomed federal Judge Garvin Murtha's ruling that the legislature could not shut Yankee (the state is appealing). But Murtha also upheld the right of the Public Service Board to deny Entergy those operating and waste production permits .
So after lauding the decision, Entergy's lawyers now want Murtha to change it. Entergy has also asked the Public Service Board for a stay in its expected denial of the permits.
The case is clearly headed to the corporate-owned US Supreme Court. But for Entergy to win, the Roberts majority would have to rule that the company was temporarily insane when signed its agreements with the state, and that a state agency can be forced (against its will) to issue reactor operating and waste creating permits.
The history of US courts denying states the right to shut reactors dates back to the 1954 Atomic Energy Act. But deferral to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's bent for keeping rush-bucket reactors on line is rapidly eroding. The Commission granted Vermont Yankee a license extension one day before the Fukushima disaster. A state-mandated shut down could seriously impact the political calculus for an industry whose grassroots opposition has become a full-on tsunami.
New York's Indian Point reactors are under assault from Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose father cut the 1988 deal that forced Long Island's Shoreham reactor to shut without ever achieving commercial operation.
Cuomo is being pushed by a fierce grassroots anti-nuke groundswell. Entergy does need state permits that would let two remaining reactors at Indian Point (Unit One went down long ago) continue heating and irradiating the Hudson River. New York could demand Entergy build extremely expensive cooling towers, which may force it to shut down for economic reasons . Similar forces are at work in New Jersey and other states.