Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All Male Strip Tease

Dear Lord,

You know that little marquee at the bottom of each page of this prayer blog? The one that flashes headlines regarding Entergy, Enexus, NRC, and Vermont Yankee? Well one of those headlines caught my attention. It's from Science News, and it reads,

EPA Should Test Demasculinizing Pollutants Collectively, NRC Says

When I saw it, I was like, "Whoa! Why haven't I heard about that before?" As it turns out, this story took me by surprise because "NRC" in this case is "National Research Council," not "Nuclear Regulatory Commission." Am I annoyed at the mixing up of non-nuclear headlines into my nice marquee of nuclear ones? Not at all. I see this as a God-given PR opportunity. See, demasculinizing pollutants get a lot of attention—but, to my knowledge, they have yet to be tied to Vermont Yankee or nuclear power. And that's news! That's the kind of news that makes the people of Vermont Yankee want to get up, get up, get up and dance!

And so, Lord, to make the most of this PR opportunity I have convinced a few of the great bods around here to form a little group -- The Demasculinizing Pollutants -- and do a little inspirational, feel-good dance. I give you the hotties of Vermont Yankee: Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard, DPS Chief David O'Brien, former Greenpeace "founder" Patrick Moore, Governor Jim Douglas, and Brattleboro Museum and Art Center Director Danny Lichtenfeld (who once testified to the Windham Regional Commission that, while he could not speak to the important safety, political, and economic concerns regarding nuclear power, he was grateful to Vermont Yankee for its corporate generosity), by which endorsement he finally gave the lie to the idea that "Entergy Can't Push Everyone Around".

Let's all give a warm round of applause to Vermont Yankee's Demasculinizing Pollutants!

Amen--and have a Happy New Year!,


Monday, December 15, 2008

Huge Madoff-Style Fraud Discovered at Vermont Yankee

Dear God,

The absolute worst has happened at Vermont Yankee, and it's not a meltdown, though that's what we've spent the last 40 years fearing.

The independent panel overseeing a comprehensive vertical audit of the reliability of Vermont Yankee's systems, structures and components has discovered that, just as Bernie Madoff ran an investment management company that was actually a Ponzi scheme, Entergy has been running a nuclear power plant that is actually a non-functioning collection of plungers, Roto Rooters, and rolls of Charmin.

According to the independent oversight panel, upon receiving the keys to the plant from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation in July, 2002, Entergy began secretly dismantling the plant and sending its tiniest radioactive parts by courier pigeon to nuclear weapons facilities around the world. As the pigeons became irradiated, they grew larger. Now, more than six years into the fraud, the pigeons are so large that they resemble 18-wheelers, and large sections of the plant easily find their way onto I-91.

So what is at Vermont Yankee if not a nuclear power plant? Initially, all that the independent oversight panel found was battle gear that I had bought the other day. But further sleuthing on the part of the panel has revealed a pneumatic tube flooded with southward-moving greenbacks and connecting Vernon, Vermont directly to Entergy's New Orleans headquarters at 639 Loyola Ave.

While the people of Vermont have long expressed dismay at the amount of cash that leaves the Vermont economy for Louisiana and Cayman Island coffers, they were aghast to learn just how quickly the out-of-state, out-of-mind transition is. Many were therefore pleased to hear that a second pneumatic tube running directly from 639 Loyola Ave. to the Department of Public Services office in Montpelier, Vermont was also discovered. In this tube the cash flows northward.

This week the collapse of Bernie Madoff's fraud led his dupes to wonder how Madoff had fooled so many for so long. Similar questions have already arisen in the Vermont Yankee fraud. Apparently this is a large part of the answer:

First, in typical Ponzi fashion, Vermont Yankee used some small percentage of its Vermont receivables to buy power from renewable power sources and redirect it into the New England grid. Second, Vermont Yankee had installed a 100-foot-high, 1200-gallon atomizer and programmed it to randomly spay radiation-laced steam into the air above the plant, thereby increasing fence line radiation levels at Vermont Yankee and ramping up the rate of thyroid cancers throughout the Northeast in a way that caught the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and, at the same time, reassured normally skeptical anti-nukers that there was a problem requiring their busy-bee activism.

Late Sunday night, the independent oversight panel detached the large squirty thingy that activates the atomizer, and the enormous cancer threat presented by Vermont Yankee is now a thing of the past. The panel's only remaining task is to catch those damn pigeons before the pigeons catch them, at which point Vermont will be delivered from its long nuclear nightmare.

To mix metaphors (and news stories) here, when informed by the Brattleboro Reformer that the nuclear power plant he had long defended as good for Vermonters had in fact been re-designed to harm Vermonters as well as rob them blind, Governor Jim Douglas seemed to be in denial. "I’ve got this thing," Douglas said, in his best Legs Diamond style, "and it’s [expletive] golden. And I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not going to do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there."



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh, I Thought He Said "Turd War."

Dear God,

Guess I'll have to sell some of this stuff on eBay. See, I was preparing to help NRC staffers fight the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board in a battle of epic proportions. I've bought catapults, plungers, rubber gloves, goggles, and Febrize. I've commandeered Roto Rooters and stockpiled Charmin. All week long the Control Room stoners have brought their human waste from home, and they'd all graciously added fiber to their diets. We would have had more fun fighting this war than we do playing video games while guards sleep.

But then Ray Shadis explained to me that he had said "turf war". NRC staffers are waging a turf war with the ASLB over the ASLB ruling that we haven't done enough analysis on the issue of metal fatigue here at the nuclear power station.

So I told the stoners, "Never mind." And so they said they never do.



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Safety Inspections Are a Bigger Deal Than I Thought

Dear God,

Remind me not to go to horror movies.

Or even to watch horror webcasts.

Yesterday I stumbled upon a story in the Toledo Blade, which pointed me to a webcast of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing into whether and how significantly to punish the two engineers convicted of covering up vital information about the Davis-Besse nuclear plant weeks before its old reactor head nearly blew apart. Yesterday's hearing was to consider whether one engineer, David Geisen, should be allowed to resume work in the nuclear industry. He had been banned until January, 2011. On Thursday his convicted co-engineer, Andrew Siemaszko, will have his turn with the ASLB. He is seeking either acquittal or a new trial.

As I've explained to you only last month, Lord,

It was during a refueling shutdown that engineers discovered that, over the course of six years of inadequate inspections, corrosive coolant had been leaking from the core. The coolant had created a six-by-five-by-four inch cavity in the liner of the core. All that remained of the liner was a warped piece of steel a little thicker than tin foil. It and it alone contained approximately 2200 psi of highly radioactive internal environment. Had the pressure burst through the remaining lining and into the reactor containment building, it might have set in motion a core meltdown, and just 21 miles away from Toledo.

Lord, even I, who constantly put a big smiley-face on the kisser of nuclear power, cannot take this incident lightly. The webcast (which I encourage you to check out for its really cool, scary evidence, only don't waste your time with anything before, say, 15 minutes 30 seconds) included detailed explanations about what went wrong, what the engineers supposedly ignored, and, most disturbingly to me, the preposterous danger presented by evidence that could easily be (and easily was) explained away by Davis-Besse's FirstEnergy management team as indicative of minor problems that weren't minor at all. And, of course, while I watched this today, we, the management team at Vermont Yankee, are still rationalizing a few additional cracks on the steam dryer and a few pesky cooling tower problems blah blah blah. Different plants; different parts of the plant; different levels of safety concern, perhaps, but my job is to rationalize, publicly, and today rationalizing got a bad name, at least in that pesky webcast.

Some questions, Lord:

1—Apparently an engineer can get indicted and have his life and reputation shattered for downplaying the dangers of miscellaneous, "minor" problems in a nuclear reactor. Can a PR guy?

2—If so, can I get paid extra for time spent at trial?

3—Were those engineers really at fault? If so, were they the only ones at fault? David Geisen's "co-conspirator"—a Polish immigrant named Andrew Siemaszko—made an excellent case at trial that he was just the whistle blower. He had ordered maintenance for the reactor lid, but that maintenance could have cost the plant about $1 million a day in lost revenue. So it was never completed. Scaffolding was taken down less than 24 hours into the job, and without his consent. So how is any of this his fault?

4—Why didn't Sam Collins get indicted? He is our NRC administrator in charge of enforcing safety; at the time of the Davis-Besse near-disaster, he was the NRC administrator in charge of enforcing safety at Davis-Besse. Sam had the power to shut the plant down, and, according to a second Toledo Blade article, he'd seen a photo of huge rust streaks that raised his suspicion. Still, he let the plant's management team bargain with him about timing—and about people's safety. (Alarmed by the photo, Sam wanted to shut down the plant three months ahead of a planned schedule. He negotiated with the management team and agreed to shut it down only 6 weeks earlier than scheduled.)

5—Why didn't the management team in charge of the plant get indicted? They, according to yet another Toledo Blade article, had developed a "mantra" or rallying cry of "Let's win this war" when Sam initially moved to shut down the Davis-Besse plant.

God, according to (I know this is getting ridiculous) yet another Toledo Blade article, after investigating this mess the NRC Office of the Inspector General issued a report saying that the NRC had become a complacent regulator, sympathetic to a profit-over-safety mentality at Davis-Besse. Engineer Andrew Siemaszko's lawyers argued that even though he tried to initiate maintenance, he ended up the scapegoat because he has a Polish accent, was an immigrant, and, I don't know, maybe even looked the part of a guy you'd see in jail.

Lord, we've been accused of having a profit-over-safety mentality at Vermont Yankee. And I've defended our mentality time and again, and this time we're arguing sticky points like fenceline radiation levels, proximity of the dry storage casks to the river, Vermont Yankee's spent fuel plan, new cracks in the steam dryer and, most alarmingly, a high probability of the Mark I containment at Vermont Yankee rupturing when needed to protect the public in a severe accident. Vermont Yankee has acknowledged the insufficiency and installed an automatic vent. Yet that vent could itself be the path for the release of radioactive fission, and Vermont Yankee's management team has told the NRC essentially that.

In the event of an accident or near accident, I ask for your protection, Lord. Please don't let me develop a Polish accent. And please protect Sam Collins's accent, too.



Thursday, December 4, 2008

Who Would Jesus Dance With?

Dear God,

Ching Ching a ling
La dah de dah
I don't know the
Lyrics to this
But it's the Christmas song that's sung in a round
And it's the one that's in tha-at film
About the people
Who loved each other
And in the end
Some of them got kissed.
Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas
Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas

Anyway. God, did you all know that the Citizens Awareness Network a/k/a Nukebusters is sponsoring an anti-nuke Christmas caroling event Friday night at 6 at Gallery Walk in Brattleboro? Carolers are supposed to gather and be prepared to sing loopy, anti-nuke versions of various traditional songs. In an unprecedented move of "across the aisle" collaboration, Clare Chang even forwarded me a copy of the carols when I asked to see them. I somehow deleted the file from my hard drive before I could even read the carols. Hence, though I indicated to her that I might pray about the carols here (thereby allowing people to memorize the songs before arriving), I can't. And how's that for a holiday show of Vermont Yankee competence?

To be perfectly clear, I think that carolers are supposed to gather near the big clock, but I have no evidence of why I think that. [Correction: Gather in Harmony Parking Lot! See "comment" from Clare Chang!]

Anyway, I've gotten to ruminating again. The anti-nukers are going to gather and sing anti-nuke Christmas carols, suggesting (thereby) that God is on their side. And so we, the pro-poison-the-children-and-river-and-everyone-near-it-nukers, would ideally convince the very same gullible crowds at Gallery Walk that God is really on our side.

I thought of gathering our entire management team to stand on the corner of High and Main and point towards the toxic cloud emitted by Vermont Yankee while singing a chorus of the Carpenter's big hit, "Close to You," but that's not really a religious song. Also, in a nightmare I once had, precisely that maneuver got the managers arrested at the Vernon Elementary School, which is conveniently located directly across the street from Vermont Yankee.

So I've decided to do without a Gallery Walk event and instead make a Christmas-themed Video Extravaganza. It's called "Who Would Jesus Dance With?", and it stars J. Wayne Leonard, David O'Brien, and Governor Jim Douglas—the entire and exclusive set of people whose energy issues make Jesus boogie.

Or so I would like everyone to believe.





Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sam Collins, and the Art of Writing Press Releases

Dear God,

The intolerance of the people of Vermont and nearby New Hampshire and Massachusetts never ceases to amaze me.

Everyone is mad because, in my press release announcing that Vermont Yankee was powering up again after refueling, I failed to mention the additional 16 cracks in the steam dryer that we found during the outage. I also decided not to mention the five degraded wooden support beams we discovered in the reactor's only safety-related cooling tower cell.

I've explained that mention of those problems would have made my press release too long. Don't these people know that press releases are one-page affairs—and that's on 8-1/2" paper, not on an endless roll of toilet stuff? Don't they know that a whole hunk of that one measly page will always be taken up by the headline and the contact information? And that then there's the date and all of the Who, What, When, and Where stuff to include? I mean there are rules to follow!

Given all of those constraints, the single hardest part of press release writing is the headline. I thought I did a good job in my release announcing our power-up after the outage. I billed the release as a list of the successes we'd had, and the copy matched the headline. I mean, the whole point of a headline is to grab attention, all the while keeping people optimistic about their chances for survival.

So to all of those Negative Nancys out there who think they know more than I do, I'm going to distribute a document that will make them eat crow, gosh darn it. The document is actually a quiz, and it's called….

Humility 101: What Makes You Think You Can Write a Press Release?

Here are some dicey situations Vermont Yankee is in. Chose from among the headlines offered, and then feel grateful that this is my job, not yours.

Situation 1. The Vermont Energy Partnership ("VEP"), of which Entergy is a prominent, high-stakes member, wants to convince legislators to relicense Vermont Yankee. What is the headline of a convincing press release?


Situation 2. The public is angry and wary because of chronic cooling tower problems and a consistent pattern of half-truths emerging from Entergy and the NRC. The NRC performed a special safety inspection and invited the public to a meeting at the Latchis Theatre to explain that the safety inspection had pretty much given VY a clean bill of health. As it turns out, that wasn't even half true. The NRC had found huge problems—the 16 aforementioned cracks in the steam dryer and the five aforementioned support beams that were dangerously degraded in the sole safety cell in the cooling towers. What is the headline of a face-saving press release?

Situation 3. Those activists may look ugly, but thank God, God, that they're not mean, too. Quite a few know about the role that Sam Collins, currently the NRC's Region 1 administrator in charge of enforcing safety at Vermont Yankee, played in the near disaster at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, which would have wrought death, destruction, and, yes, prayers about cancer to Toledo, Ohio. They know about Sam Collins's role, but they've been too kind to make a big deal out of it. You see, he's probably embarrassed, and they're being sensitive. (Background info: In late winter of 2002 the Davis-Besse plant shut down for refueling. It was during the refueling shutdown that engineers discovered that, over the course of six years of inadequate inspections, corrosive coolant had been leaking from the core. The coolant had created a six-by-five-by-four inch cavity in the liner of the core. All that remained of the liner was a warped piece of steel a little thicker than tin foil. It and it alone contained approximately 2200 psi of highly radioactive internal environment. Had the pressure burst through the remaining lining and into the reactor containment building, it might have set in motion a core meltdown, and just 21 miles away from Toledo. At that time, Sam Collins—"our" Sam Collins—was the NRC nuclear reactor regulation director for that region. He was the person at the NRC who had allowed FirstEnergy executives to talk the NRC out of issuing a shutdown order at the plant, and he did that even though at least one NRC inspector reporting to Sam had a photograph showing the Davis-Besse reactor head with streaks of suspicious looking rust. Sam was also in charge of NRC oversight of the Peach Bottom nuclear plant when, in 2007, the NRC allowed guards to continue sleeping on the job, even though a whistleblower let them know it was happening. Finally that whistleblower sent video of the sleeping guards to a local TV station.) Anyway, in the event that our local activists do eventually try to make a big deal out of the connection between Davis-Besse's and even Peach Bottom's lack of oversight and ours, the headline you write is:

I hope you can see, Lord, that writing a press release that all parties to a deal like is a wing and a prayer kind of thing.



Monday, November 17, 2008

Safety is a Joke

Dear God,

Sorry I didn't pray about this at the end of last week but I thought that if I just pulled my covers over my head for the weekend the whole problem might go away.

But here it is Monday, and the cooling towers at Vermont Yankee are still reminding me of that old Will Rogers line, "It takes a lot of money just to get beaten."

To quote the Rutland Herald of November 14:

The discovery of more degraded wooden support beams in Vermont Yankee's cooling towers — this time in the reactor's only safety dedicated cell — raised questions Thursday about how thorough a special Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection was this summer.

Workers at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant had to immediately replace five deteriorated major support columns in the one safety-related cell of the reactor's two cooling towers during the plant's recent refueling outage, according to the NRC.

This is a milestone, God, and the kind that makes even Democrats swear! It's the first safety-related problem to which we might be held accountable since I don't know when. Even the Department of Public Service seems to have expressed "surprise," though its spokesman Stephen Wark has presciently held back from expressing its more dreaded measure of disapproval, "disappointment."

Cooling systems are expensive, God, and ours seems to be about as worthless as unsugared Jello. For example, overhauling the cooling system at Indian Point may cost around $1 billion. The two sites aren't particularly similar. Indian Point has two reactors. Vermont Yankee has one. Etc., etc., so I don't even know where to begin ballparking Vermont Yankee's potential expenses. But in this economy, raising an enormous amount of money won't be easy.

But finances regarding the cooling tower aren't actually our biggest problem this week. Our biggest problem is a public relations one that may become a legislative one in just a few short hours. The November 14 Rutland Herald article inspired a few letters to the editor about Vermont Yankee's inability to respond to problems with "fixes" that stick. One from this morning is particularly chilling.

In 1992 the owners of Vermont Yankee acknowledged a high probability of its Mark I containment rupturing when needed to protect the public in a severe accident. The remedy: Vermont Yankee accepted a recommendation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and installed an automatically operated hardened vent system to prevent high pressure during an accident from destroying the containment.

But the automatic vent could itself be the path for the release of radioactive fission products. In 1998 the owners of Vermont Yankee recognized deficiencies and wrote a letter to the NRC announcing that they had closed off access to the automatic vent.

The owners implemented no other fix. The flaws in the Mark I containment Vermont Yankee acknowledged by implementing the automatic vent remain to this day. No inspection program can address this known problem. The defective containment is inherent in the obsolete design of Vermont Yankee, one of the oldest nuclear plants operating today.

As you can imagine, Lord, this is shaping up to be a particularly bad week for the PR department here, what with the legislature convening its new session at noon today and with Vermont Yankee's application for relicensing as one of the top items on its agenda.

Normally, Lord, and especially during dark times like this week, I try to include a little humor in my prayers—all in an attempt to cheer both you and me up. I've searched all but the barest corners of my brain for a blonde joke that would fit the bill here, and I haven't been able to find one. So an NRC joke will have to do. (They're becoming increasingly easy to find.)

A: How many special NRC safety inspectors can you place on the point of a needle?

A: Ten, if you make them stand on their heads.

Now I feel better. You?



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Crack Kills

Dear God,

Coming on the heels of embarrassing news earlier this year -- first about a stoned control room operator and then about a drunk employee – is news about crack at Vermont Yankee.

Only, as I pointed out to the Rutland Herald, it's not really news. We've always had a crack problem. Unfortuntately, I'm not talking about the drug-of-choice problem from the mid 1980s, the one produced by smoking a boiled combination of powdered cocaine, water, and baking soda. That kind of crack problem has to do with the risk of death inherent in a crazed attempt to get high. Crack kills, and even if it doesn't it can make you paranoid and violent.

No, the crack problem we have at Vermont Yankee is potentially far more deadly. Though it does sound milder. Listen: "We found 16 new cracks in the steam dryer." Big deal, huh? Well, it is. Just add those 16 new cracks to the 47 cracks the dryer already had, and we now have a ringing total of 63 steam dryer cracks.

Yeah, I know. Well, if 47 cracks haven't been a problem, why should anyone believe that 63 will be? In other words, how in heaven's name could this kind of crack problem be more serious than the problem ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of addicts as well as the lives of their children and their crime victims?

Here's the "how" of it all: Our kind of crack problem threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have not thumbed their noses at conventional wisdom and flagrantly hurt themselves and others. Our kind of crack problem threatens people who've only endangered themselves and their families by listening uncritically while I blather about Vermont Yankee being safe, clean, and reliable. Hearing my assurances, they have agreed to live or work near an aging nuclear power plant whose major parts collapse in broad daylight but that, incredibly, has been allowed by the NRC to boost its power output by 20% and chug along at that rate rather too merrily.

We have not yet had any disastrous -- or even dramatic -- consequences to that power uprate. But other plants have not been so lucky. Indeed, as of October 15, 2004, a cracked steam dryer had failed in four of ten nuclear power plants receiving uprates of 13% or more.

And when she blows, she blows.

According to Ray Shadis, NEC Technical Staff advisor, “In one reactor a piece of heavy steel nine feet long and a foot and a half wide tore loose and was blown down the steam line at supersonic speed.” According to the Rutland Herald, after an uprate "at the Dresden reactor in Illinois, the vibration from additional power generation caused pieces of the steam dryer to come loose, and lodge in safety-related equipment."

Hmmm. One event sounds dreadful, the other sounds like the stuff of a lullabye. I wonder if those are two descriptions of the same accident? If so, it's a textbook example of the power of subtle phrasing. "Lodged in safety-related equipment." Well, that's something an eyelash could do, and what harm would that bring? Let's go live near that power plant!

And so today, appreciating anew the power of tact, in announcing the discovery of the 16 new cracks I did not iterate for the media the many safety problems that uprates have caused in the steam dryers of nuclear power plants across the nation. Rather, I delicately suggested that our 16 steam dryer cracks are not new harbingers of catastrophe to come. They're old, tired harbingers that can safely be ignored. Because, actually, these 16 cracks may have been with us all along. We've only noticed them now that our inspection equipment is better.

Which is to say that, as Vermont Yankee's inspection technology improves, we shouldn't rush to do anything about the information we glean. Instead we should assume that any discovery that makes our uprate or continued operation seem dangerous is only an artifact of Entergy Nuclear/Vermont Yankee's rising commitment to state-of-the-art measurement tools -- and of our incredible honesty and transparency.

Hey, Lord! Did you hear inspirational music swelling as I typed that last sentence? Heavens, I like that sentence!

I think I may even like it more than than the "higher fenceline radiation levels are really a measure of lower fenceline radiation levels" argument we put out just a few weeks ago. Over the years at Vermont Yankee, we've really learned to uprate the PR.

Thanks for hearing me out, Lord, like you always do.



Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chic Alors!

Dear God,

I am so darn mad. I've been hoodwinked! I got a phone call this afternoon from someone who identified himself as President Sarkozy of France. And in the phone call I agreed to think about energy in a whole knew way. "Monsieur Le President" had listened to a story on NPR this morning as he drove to his day job as an instructor of ridiculous French accents, and that story is what he wanted to talk to me about.

The story was about Duke Energy, a major power utility based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Duke has been hoping to build more coal-fired and nuclear plants in order to meet the ever-growing needs of its power customers. The news is that Duke may have identified a way to meet those needs in a way that is safe, clean, and reliable..

Which is to say that Duke now sees rooftops as future power plants. In a test, Duke is installing solar panels on hundreds of customers' roofs. Duke owns and operates the solar panels, and they pay the customers for the use of their roofs. The solar panels feed into the grid, and the customers derive electrical energy from the grid just as they always have. In other words, Duke pays them rent on their roof-top real estate, and they pay Duke for the power! In the end, energy might not be cheaper for the customers than it has been. But the energy produced this way is entirely green and non-polluting.

Well, Vermont Yankee is not really a power utility in the way that Duke Energy is. VY is just a nuclear power plant. But I'm intrigued (or "ahntreegay" as Monsieur Le President taught me to say this morning) by the idea of exploiting real estate on roofs. And so I've written up--and already sent out--a memo suggesting a roof idea. I'm suggesting that we store high-level radioactive waste on rooftops throughout Windham County. Because, hey, the customers could use the rent money we'd pay. And (also, hey) we've had a few big concerns regarding the dry casks holding our waste on site. Putting the casks on roofs will address all of those concerns.

Well, terrorists can hardly fly a single plane into many houses sprinkled throughout Windham County, can they? See, we'd be spreading the danger (and that idea would meet instant, widespread approval, given Barack Obama's success at the idea of "spreading the wealth." It's a coattail effect I'm talking about here, PR-wise.) Furthermore, putting dry cask storage on roof tops of homes would remove the casks entirely from the muddy flood plain. And finally, putting the dry cask containers on roofs would diminish fenceline radiation at Vermont Yankee. Why everyone is so darned concerned about the health of that fence, I'll never understand.

Anyway, Lord, I think I made an idiot out of myself falling for the prank phone call, but I also think that the ideas that resulted from the phone call are good. The universe is still looking out for me, n'est-ce pas?

Just kidding. :) I know it's been you looking out for me all along.



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

D'ja Vote Yet?

Dear God,

Some people wearing radiation suits went to the Public Service Board in Montepelier to vote early. Those lines on Monday must have been long!—because apparently some of the early voters lost control of their bladders and left urine-soaked stinky stuff all over the floor. And I didn't even know the PSB office was a polling place.

Hey, where were those Obama Comfort Teams when you need one?



Friday, October 31, 2008

Eye of Newt

Dear God,

Happy Halloween! What are you going to be?

Ok, ok. I know. It's all about moi. What am I going to be? Get this: Tongue of Dog. Remember?

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,

Ewwww, right? Anyway, Tongue of Dog is my favorite part of the Second Witch's incantation in MacBeth because it reminds me of the happy, stupid grin my dog Eisenhower used to get when he would think that all was well and then drool all over my nice clothes, without a thought for my mother's rules or for the hassle it would be for me to clean up his mess.

I'm feeling happy and stupid.

  • "Happy" because this week's fire at the Pilgrim Nuclear Station was doused without injuries or release of radioactivity. Reminds me of the good luck we had with the Vermont Yankee transformer fire in 2004.
  • "Happy" because I don't live in Europe, where eight nuclear incidents reported since May 24, including the inadvertent contamination of 100 workers and an off-site release of radioactive uranium in France, have reminded the public again and again that nuclear power is a source of routine and accidental radioactive pollution.
  • "Happy" because Entergy is delaying spinning Vermont Yankee and its other unregulated assets into Enexus, and that whole idea was a public relations fiasco to begin with.
  • "Happy" because Entergy has finally offered to add $60 million to the decommissioning fund (even if $60 million is only about 1/8 of what the fund was lacking before the stock market crashed, and even if Entergy won't add that money until 2026).
  • "Happy" because Entergy has announced that it won't begin decommissioning for another 60 years even if Vermont Yankee's license is not renewed. This is good because, when Entergy's most staunch supporters realize that decommissioning costs hundreds of millions of dollars more than Entergy ever let on, I will be long gone from this job, and spinning a positive from a howler of a negative will be someone else's problem.
  • "Happy" because the special legislative panel that is pressing the Department of Health over its unilateral decision to change the way it measures radiation being emitted by the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant adjourned Thursday and won't announce a decision until next month.

Which leaves me free to celebrate Halloween--and feel the "stupid" part of "happy and stupid." Which is to confess, Lord, that I may have forgotten already. What are you going to be?


Tongue of Dog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Five Days and Counting

Dear God,

Or is it six days and counting? Four? I can never get the hang of that calendar stuff, what with all of the includings and excludings. Anyway, there are a few--but not a whole bunch--of days left before we all learn whether Senator John McCain will become President John McCain, and whether our country can, indeed, hope to have 45 new nuclear power plants online by the year 2030.

I'm no good at this waiting game. I'm pacing the floor. I'm smoking cigarettes. I'm feeling contractions in the bowel area and lower back. I'm doing my breathing exercises and my wife has my bag packed for a middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital, just in case. This could all be intestinal gas, I know. But it could also be the birthing of a whole new world of nuclear possibility.

Are you feeling this way, too, Lord? Are others? If so, you and they may want to make use of my new, handy-dandy list …

What To Expect When You're Expecting
a Nuclear Renaissance

  1. Excited? Yes! Go ahead and enjoy that exuberance while you can, because your sleep may be put on hold for the next 18 years. Make that 22 years. There are a lot of catastrophic environmental events that can happen with all of that uranium mining--not to mention the potential for surprises as 45 reactors power up. Before you know it, you'll be looking for places to dump waste, and I don't mean dirty diapers. So spend these next five days relaxing, writing in your "expecting" journal, listening to your favorite music, or staring aimlessly at the sky, your mind filled with wonder.

  2. If you have the all too common Nesting Instinct, just make sure you don't climb up any tall ladders or try to move large pieces of furniture by yourself. Especially if you are in public relations, President McCain and his successors will need your support 10,000% over the next 22 years. Your sprained ankle may come at our nation's peril.

  3. Make time for fun. In between writing press releases about the latest cooling tower accident, steam dryer crack, or failure of a spinoff due to market instability, watch a few movies. I like Boys Love Big Machines, but you might also want to download "Massive Propane Explosion" just for an idea of how fun things get when boom leads to boom leads to boom, boom, boom. Movie watching is a great way to comfort the overly excited child within and create happy, calm thoughts about the days to come.

  4. If you have other nuclear power plants that you are already tending, your co-workers may need to hear from you that you have enough love for all of your corporate responsibilities.

  5. Think of names! You'll need 45 of 'em, so feel free to use common ones like "Power-y Plant-y," "Really, Really Big Beulah," or "The Short-Sighted, Politically Expedient Idea that Destroyed the Western Hemisphere." But surely you can use your imagination. "Safe, Clean, and Reliable" comes to my mind for some reason. Any takers?

  6. Remember, as desperately as you may want to refresh The Drudge Report all day long, no bankable information is likely to come from it until late at night on November 4, and sitting too close to your computer monitor may only expose you to unnecessary radiation. And none of us wants that to happen.



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bad Ass: I'm a Wannabe

Dear God,

Hey, did you hear? Arnie Gundersen has spent $150,000 on clothing and makeup for himself at Saks Fifth Avenue, Niemen Marcus, and other high-end stores. The entire bill has been footed by The New England Coalition.

Senator Peter Shumlin (D-Putney) appointed Gundersen to the independent oversight panel overseeing a comprehensive vertical audit of the reliability of Vermont Yankee's systems, structures and components. Which means that it's his fault as much as anyone's that Arnie has become the darling of the no-nuke movement. Still, true to form, Shumlin has questioned my motives in disclosing the whole shopping spree affair.

"With all of the important safety, economic, and legislative issues facing the Vermont Yankee debate right now, it's remarkable that Fake-Rob wants to spend time talking about pantsuits and blouses," Shumlin said. "Can't we talk about cooling tower safety? About the fact that every time Arnie predicts that something is about to go wrong at Yankee it does? About the fact that the Department of Public Service is attempting to limit the scope of the audit, has failed to share with the panel a letter from the NRC relating to the NRC's component design basis inspection recently conducted at the power plant, and is poorly managing and understaffing the audit by not hiring an additional manager to assist Uldis Vanags, the state's nuclear engineer?" Shumlin's voice was almost squeaking, he was that mad at me. "Arnie's going to give all of those clothes and other junk to important charities like Ladies Against Women anyway, when he's done using them."

Meanwhile, there's been a trickle-down effect from the revelation about Arnie's whole-hog hogging. Donations to NEC have skyrocketed, engineers at Vermont Yankee have requested clothing allowances amounting to three times their median salary, and Real-Rob has demanded to know why Arnie can't just dress and shave "like the rest of us."

In other news, everyone at the Department of Public Service is mad at Arnie for communicating with the press. Also, we've just evacuated the reactor building. I know. I'm a bad ass. Oh, well.



Friday, October 17, 2008

A Book and Its Cover

Dear God,

Quick quiz. Who looks more presidential?

And which of these photos represents a power source that is clean, safe, and reliable?

Sometimes, Lord, a picture is worth a thousand words. And in cases like that, what in heaven's name can I say?



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ode to Arnie

Dear God and Dear Members of the General Public,

(Whoa! A two-fer. Right away everyone is interested, right?)

Anyway, that was kind of a contentious meeting we had at the Latchis Theatre late yesterday afternoon. The NRC and Vermont Yankee tried to explain to the general public that the safety of the cooling towers is not in question. But the public didn't seem reassured, if you know what I mean.

So I thought I'd organize a little singalong for all of us, just to get the good feelings rolling again.

This is going to be one of those "your part, our part" sort of things, because good fences make good neighbors. So, General Public, I'm going to give you the first verse to sing, and then we at Vermont Yankee will sing the second verse with a little help from you. (After you finish singing your verse, you should go to the second verse and use the pull down menus to create the verse you'd like us to sing. Then print the whole page and mail it to your favorite local newspaper.)

Here goes, General Public! Your part is about to begin! You should probably call it "Ode to Arnie" or something like that, referring, of course, to Arnie Gundersen, the Chair of the Comprehensive Vertical Audit and member of the oversight panel. He tried to ask six questions at yesterday's meeting. (Evidently he's felt increasingly frustrated in his role as panel member, going so far as to suggest that questions don't do a lot of good unless they're accompanied by answers.) Anyway, Arnie only got to ask one question, and no one quite answered it. So you call your sad, frustrated part of the song "Ode to Arnie," because your part of the song is largely about guys like him, and we at Vermont Yankee will sing the happy part of the song and call it "I Wish That Man Would Just Sit Down."

Ok, General Public. Sing your part:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

You're sounding great! Now this is the part that we here at Vermont Yankee will sing, but first you have to help us compose our verse. (Remember? Create the verse by using the pull-down menus. Then print the whole page out and send it to your favorite local newspaper.)

How many times must a man

Before he can

Yes, 'n' how many

Before he can

Yes, 'n'

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Amen, Lord!


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Just Between Us Guys, God

Dear God,

"This sucker could go down!"

That's what President Bush said about the economy, and that's what the NRC said about the cooling system (specifically the towers) at Vermont Yankee.



Friday, October 10, 2008

VY Panel Gets Shut Out and So Can You

Dear God,

You know, when I ask, "Are You There, God? It's me, Fake-Rob Williams," I'm not asking rhetorically. I actually don't know whether you're listening, Lord. Maybe you're there, maybe you're not there.

But looking at the traffic logs, the information that tells me who reads my prayers and when, I can see that my employers certainly are "there." They're all over my prayers.

To be honest, the traffic logs don't give me names, or even specific locations, of the people who read my prayers. But they do tell me the name of the visitor's internet provider and they also tell me the city of the provider hosting the connection.

For example, I get lots of visits from people using an internet connection provided by Burlington Telecom of Burlington, Vermont. That's all that I know about those particular visitors. Actually, sometimes I do know a little more about a visitor because my traffic logs also tell me what search terms a given person used on Google before ending up reading my prayers. An awful lot of the people who read my prayers use servers owned by Entergy New Orleans. The search term used—nearly obsessively—by one of those users is J. Wayne Leonard, J. Wayne Leonard, J. Wayne Leonard.

In your all-knowingness, Lord, surely you know that J. Wayne Leonard is the CEO of Entergy New Orleans, which owns Entergy Nuclear, which owns Vermont Yankee.

Is it J. Wayne Leonard himself typing his name frantically into Google search fields and regularly discovering that I've prayed about him? I don't know. If it is him, how does he feel about what I've prayed?

Thinking about that—about the fact that he may not be thrilled to find himself in my prayers – I've thought of assigning him a literary pseudonym. What if, in my prayers, I were to refer to him not as J. Wayne Leonard but as, for example, "He Who Must Not Be Named?" On the plus side, that sort of thing worked well for Lord Voldermort. On the minus side, J. K. Rowlings might sue.

So I've been thinking – and now I'm praying, Lord – to find a better pseudonym than "He Who Must Not Be Named." How about "He Who Must Not Be Flamed?" Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Nah. I haven't been saying mean things about J. Wayne Leonard at all. Mostly I've just speculated about why he makes so much money, and I've also assured you that he had nothing to do with the death of Karen Carpenter. So forget that idea.

Oooh! Here's a name that might work: Like "J. Wayne Leonard" it's a three-name name, and, like "J. Wayne Leonard" it has worked long and well for a powerful man whose tinkering with nuclear power many fear.

You guessed it, Lord! Omniscience really works for you! The name I'm thinking of is "Kim Jong-Il" -- the Dear Leader of North Korea.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. Just think about the many similarities between J. Wayne Leonard and Kim Jong-Il! For example:
Kim Jong-Il is said to be a fan of luxury cars and to have spent $20,000,000 importing 200 Mercedes Benz S500s for his use. He has more residences than John McCain -- 17 different palaces and houses, according to some defectors.

No real information about J. Wayne Leonard's assets and houses are available, but SEC filings do show that he could probably afford a lot of them, what with the huge bonus he personally received after negotiating the $200 million Federal bailout of Entergy New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Kim Jong-Il is famous for his pithy aphorisms. J. Wayne Leonard is known for his Power Point presentations. Kind of similar, when you think about it long enough.

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that Kim Jong-Il is "not delusional." Ditto, I'm hoping, for J. Wayne Leonard.

Kim Jong-Il is so reclusive that there are rumors that he's been dead since 2003. J. Wayne Leonard may be a man about town in New Orleans. I don't get down there much, so I don't know. But he sure is one hard guy to Google.

Both men have exotic biographies. Kim Jong-Il 's birth was foretold by a swallow and heralded by lightning, thunder, a glorious double rainbow that emerged from an iceberg, and the appearance of a new star. J. Wayne Leonard went to business school and attends fashionable charity functions.

The most significant similarity, I suppose, is that neither man wants inspectors anywhere near his power plants.

Same? Different? Maybe none of this is important. But as Jon Stewart aptly said just a few weeks ago, "Those who do not study the past get an exciting opportunity to repeat it."



Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's When You Say One Thing and Mean Your Mother

Dear God,

That headline is actually the definition of a Freudian Slip. But I don't think that when Mr. John McCain said "my fellow prisoners" instead of "my fellow Amercians" that he was referring to his mother necessarily. He was talking about housing. He was making promises. He was tired.

I'm tired, Lord, especially today. I'm so tired of making empty promises that I can't return repeated phone calls about the recent horrible collapse in the Decommissioning Fund's market value. You know, I had prepared myself emotionally for a big problem regarding this fund—but I thought I was going to catch hell for giving millions away to some guy who emailed me about his temporary banking problems in Nigeria. Wrong! Apparently, $40 disappeared from the fund this month—long before I got to it.

"My fellow prisoners," Mr. McCain said. Does he know something that I don't know? Mr. Barack O'Bama (he's Irish, right?) said during the last presidential debate that the AIG executives who took that spa conference junket right after their Federal bailout should go to jail. Are the AIG executives the "fellow prisoners" Mr. McCain was talking about? Which leads me to wonder: Has Mr. McCain (probably Irish, too) been spending too much time with Keating Five sorts? (Hey, they sound Irish, and birds of a feather, as you know….) Is Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard--who, according to EntergyPayWatch.org received "total compensation worth $26.2 million during 2007"--in the same kind of trouble? Apparently (allegedly?) his $26.2 million represented an increase of more than 77% over his total compensation of $14.8 million in 2006. And according to EntergyPayWatch.org, Mr. Leonard scored this big payday partly because he had succeeded in "persuading public regulators to finance recovery costs" from Hurricane Katrina to the tune of $200 million.

Dear God, if the AIG spa conference boondogglers are going to jail with the Keating Five, will Mr. Leonard be joining them?

Will Mr. McCain?

Will I?

Can I bring Winnie-the-Pooh?



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hot Shipment Sent to Vermont Yankee

Dear God,

Jumping out of a shipping crate, and becomingly littered with pink Styrofoam peanuts, Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin was one hot shipment to Vermont Yankee from the Pilgrim nuclear station, where she had just helped celebrate an assortment of early October birthdays, retirements, and upcoming nuptials. Fetchingly stepping onto the concrete floor of the Vermont Yankee plant amidst welcoming applause, the incredibly well-tanned Palin had warm words for everyone.

"It's such an honor to be here with you brave Americans," she gushed. "And here's a shout out to any Joe or Jane Six Packs in the control room. I know you can't take your eyes off those gizmo panels long enough to join us down here. And I do also know that one or more of you may have substance abuse problems. But, you know, many people in Alaska have problems like that. We party hard while driving ATVs through mud with our kids hanging precariously off the back, and their little knuckles drag in the goop right behind the wheel. We have to be careful to not back up suddenly. Well, darn, what we do drunk can't be any harder – or easier, whatever – than what you do stoned. So I hope that when you get five minutes you'll take this one excuse to come down and at least grab something to drink. 'Cause tonight the beer is on me."

And indeed, it was, because the tiny tabby thingy on top of her beer can malfunctioned and cold, frothy liquid spewed into her eye. Which gummed the workings up, making it impossible for her to wink, and maintenance had to be called in. Chagrined, Dave Tarantino, spokesman for Pilgrim, expressed dismay that Palin's wink mechanism was so easily jammed when it left the plant. "We are pretty darn careful about the shipping of this stuff," he said.

In other news as reported by the Brattleboro Reformer, "Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors are determining why a shipment of lead shielding from Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Mass., to Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon exceeded radiation levels established by the federal Department of Transportation."



Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fake-Rob's Big Adventure

Dear God,

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

That's what some guy told me when he emailed me. He also told me that there'd been a bad hurricane in New Orleans and that my Entergy bosses in New Orleans needed lots and lots of money so that they could restore power to New Orleans.

I told him I didn't have much money. I am just the Public Relations guy for Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee.

He said, "No problem. Even PR guys like you get to help. See, I have huge buckets of cash that I'm supposed to get to your bosses right away. Trouble is, all of my cash is in a Nigerian bank account--for reasons that I can't explain. I need an American account like yours to funnel all this money through. If you could just quickly provide the account number of the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund, together we could help the terrified, water-logged, mold-covered people of New Orleans."

Anyway, Lord, I can imagine that in your all-knowingness you know what happened. That's right. Most of the Decommissioning Fund is gone. But it already was very low, as Entergy had forgotten to contribute to it for quite a while now. Anyway, it's nowhere near the $1 billion mark that it needs to hit to actually decommission Vermont Yankee safely.

Well, I feel stupid, God, and, worse, I feel kind of like Winnie the Pooh in that movie, "Pooh's Big Adventure." Did you see it? It's' the heart-warming story of a time when Pooh gets separated from his friends and feels anxious and then he has to climb mountains and go through dangerous forests and stuff to get back to safety. I feel separation anxiety about money, God. I feel it about the bags and bags and bags of money I gave away. I also feel separation anxiety about me in relation to my head, which will no doubt be separated from me once the people of Vermont figure out what happened.

My separation anxiety is also about being separated from that government guy. He promised to reward me by making me a dignitary of New Orleans. Oh, well. Big dreams die hard. They always have for Winnie-the-Pooh.

But, hey. It's probably all for the better. If I'd left that money in the decommissioning fund's bank account, it would be pretty much gone by now anyway. Or would it? I'd love to see some sort of statement from Entergy about how that money was invested, given the events of the past two weeks or so. Have you heard anything about that, God? Do you think we should ask?

Well, I'm getting kind of sleepy now. I think I'll turn in. Thanks for listening, God, as you always do.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A New York State of Mind

Dear God,

The New York Times headline of August 26 was "Indian Point Plan Could Tax Taxpayers," and that sounded like bad news for the citizens of New York. But really what was being announced was good news, far better stated by The Journal News headline of, "Indian Point Spinoffs Won't Cost New York Taxpayers, Attorney General Says." The JN text: "The plan by Indian Point's operators to spin off into a new company its nuclear reactors there and in three other states will not cost New York taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, as had been feared." The reason: Entergy announced on August 25 that it had agreed to pay the New York Power Authority as much as $3232 million in the revenue sharing it had originally promised.

Dear Lord, do you think such a thing could happen here? Could Entergy, for example, agree to top off the Decommissioning Fund as originally promised? $432 million would just about do it. I remember that the Vermont legislature passed a bill specifying that the Decommissioning Fund be fully funded by Entergy before the spinoff could be considered--and that Jim Douglas, the governor of Vermont, vetoed the bill, fearing that Entergy would get mad, take its football, and go home. I guess he should have just held out, because clearly Entergy is in the mood to play ball, or at least to write checks. Or, actually, at least to promise yet again to write checks that it either will or won't write.

Maybe if we whined appealingly?

Which brings to mind ... well, I was going to say "a joke" but I've probably offended people with my jokes. Actually, what has come to mind is a vivid metaphor.

Man walks into a bar. He growls to a woman (no, she's not necessarily a blonde), "Yum. Everything about you looks good. I'm going to rape you and take your boots."

The woman whines, as appealingly as she possibly can given her abject terror, "Oh, no, sir. Please don't rape me and take my boots."

Man says, "Ok. You can keep your boots."

If only Entergy would let Vermonters have the fully funded Decommissioning Fund they once promised. Then we could probably get the license renewal, and that is, after all, where the bulk of our lust is directed.



Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Seven Immutable Laws of Numbered Lists

Dear Lord,

Why am I so drawn to stupid prayer titles? Anyway, this is actually just a seven-item to-do list that I'm going to iterate here.

I've got to:

1. Get a hold of the guy from Gretna who calls himself "Who Knows." After the PSB meeting last Monday, he wrote insults about Brattleboro area anti-nuke activists on the Reformer's news blog. What he wrote was this:

I was at the hearing last night and now have no worries whatsoever about VY not being successfully relicensed. The anti-nuke crowd is a literal freak show of the marginally employable. It'd be nice if you could heat and power your home with ignorance and paranoia since there was a limitless supply of it there last night.

That guy's a walking PR nightmare for Vermont Yankee. We're trying to play down the Louisiana link here, and we don't want to be seen as filled with scorn for ill-dressed Vermonters.

I've found some information that might put the point of view of "Who Knows" from Gretna, Louisiana in perspective. First of all, Gretna is the location of Entergy's primary data center. Second, some people dislike Gretna intensely. This is from www.gretnasucks.com. Really.

During the aftermath of hurricane Katrina people were told to evacuate New Orleans by crossing the bridge that lead from New Orleans to Gretna. The bridge spans the Mississippi river linking New Orleans to the west bank city of Gretna. If you were black or in the company of blacks you were blocked from evacuating New Orleans by the Gretna police.

Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson, Jr. ordered his officers to kill any black people that tried to cross the bridge that lead into Gretna. His officers shot at blacks or people in the company of blacks that tried to cross the bridge….

The Gretna police blocked the evacuation route for days. Shooting in the air and above the heads of blacks who were trying to get out of New Orleans during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. These gun shots from the white police officers of Gretna were mistaken by rescue workers in New Orleans as sniper attacks. This lead to the grounding of ambulance helicopters that thought they were being fired at when in reality it was the Gretna police shooting in the air and over the head of black people trying to cross the bridge. Much, if not all, of the reported shooting in New Orleans was actually coming from the Gretna police shooting off their guns and assault riffles at the black victims of hurricane Katrina just trying to get out of the city of New Orleans.

I don't know what of any of this is true. For example, here's a comment left at gretnasucks.com that interprets those incidents differently:

Racist against whites, blacks, hispanics….who? ALL were kept from the city in the aftermath of Katrina-EVEN GRETNA CITIZENS/PROPERTY OWNERS. So, its “racist” to keep looters out of the city? [Why else would they try to come in??…there were no stores or shelters open and no services available] After the entire city of New Orleans had been cleaned out, Mayor Nagin gave those criminals “permission” to cross the bridge and “take what they needed”. He didn’t, however, tell them to go to his house and take what they needed!! NONE of the Gretna citizens wanted those criminals here….white, black, hispanic, asian…you name it. Too bad that we have a bunch of sour grapes criminals and liberals, who are seeking their 15 minutes of fame, getting involved in things that they know nothing about. If they’re so insulted by the actions of Gretna, why don’t they give their names and addresses out so those criminals can “take what they need” from THEIR houses!! Good job Gretna!!! This is a great place to live!!

Needless to say, even though I work for Entergy I have no idea what actually happened during Katrina in Gretna. But it's not going to work to our advantage if people up here realize that the guy we may have brought in from Gretna is hurling slurs at them. And it certainly isn't going to get those activists to dress any better when they attend the following meeting:

September 22, 2008
7 PM
Docket 7440 - Petition of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC, and Entergy
Nuclear Operations, Inc. to Extend License of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power

Meeting held via Vermont Interactive Television at the following sites.

Bennington -- Mt. Anthony Lodge, 504 A Main Street, Basement
Brattleboro -- Brattleboro Union High School, 131 Fairground Road, Room 125
Castleton -- Castleton State College, Stafford Academic Center, Room 142
Johnson -- Johnson State College, Bentley Hall, Room 211
Lyndonville -- Lyndon State College, 1001 College Road
Middlebury -- Hannaford Career Center, 51 Charles Avenue, 2nd Floor
Montpelier (broadcast site) -- Vermont Department of Labor, 5 Green Mountain
Newport -- North Country Union High School, 209 Veterans Avenue
Randolph Center -- Vermont Technical College, VIT Studio, Morrill Hall
Rutland -- Stafford Technical Center, 8 Stratton Road, Room 222
Springfield -- Howard Dean Education Center, 307 South Street, 2nd Floor
St. Albans -- Bellows Free Academy, 4 Hospital Drive
Waterbury -- State Office Complex, Stanley Hall, 103 South Main Street
White River Junction -- Community College of Vermont, CCV Upper Valley, 145
Billings Farm Road
Williston -- Blair Park, 451 Lawrence Place

Well, Lord, it turns out that I actually don't have another six items to place on this to-do list. "The Seven Immutable Laws of Numbered Lists" was just a (misleading) way to call attention to an important meeting. Guess I fooled you this time, didn't I?



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ignorance is Bliss

Dear God,

If the Vermont Yankee plant needs an overhaul of its entire crumbling cooling system, who do you think will pay for that?

I ask because, in New York, the governor is demanding an answer to the "who buys a new cooling system?" question, and he is asking it regarding the two Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants that are owned by Entergy (and are, like Vermont Yankee, targeted for spinoff to Enexus). According to today's New York Times, if the Indian Point plants become the property of Enexus:

Entergy could ... be insulated from more than $1 billion in costs related to a potential overhaul of the cooling system at Indian Point.

God, back when Entergy bought the Vermont Yankee plant, the answer to a question about who pays for a new cooling system for it would have been "Entergy." This year, though, Entergy is arguing that it doesn't own the plant. Logically, this suggests that this year's answer would be "Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, never mind that it's a wholly owned subsidiary." By 2009, if the spinoff of assets to Enexus is approved, the answer would be "Enexus," only there is no evidence that I know of that Enexus has an extra billion dollars lying around. Neither (I'm guessing) could it borrow a billion dollars, given the newly disastrous state of the credit market. If the cooling system could not be replaced, the plant might have to be shut down, which means the state of Vermont would be looking at an extraordinarily dangerous asset that it would need to guard and decontaminate, pretty much all on its own.

Yes, by saying "all on its own" I may be exaggerating. Surely there is some money left in the Decommissioning Fund after this week's stock market roller coaster. How much, Lord? I ask because I believe that this is the kind of question your omniscience is supposed to be good for.

And I ask because, with all of the cooling tower problems we have had since August of 2007, I'm increasingly worried about the integrity of the entire cooling system seems. So, apparently, is the Department of Public Service.

Note to self: This week's two videotaped statements (this one and that one) have gone over great gonzos. Soon I should prepare a videotaped statement on the subject of "who pays for a new cooling system" but I shouldn't use it--not yet. My sole task should be to get everyone to think about Sarah Palin. I'll keep them in blissful ignorance about the obvious probability of deep, possibly disastrous decay until after the spinoff to Enexus.



Friday, September 19, 2008

I Came, I Saw, I Thought 'No Big Deal'

Dear God,

I told you a blonde joke once before, Lord, when I thought it relevant to our dire PR situation here at Vermont Yankee. You gave no celestial sign of having been offended, perhaps because I specifically asked you to substitute the term "trusting Vermonters" wherever you saw the word "blonde." So I will risk telling another blonde joke. This time, as before, please substitute "trusting Vermonters" for the word blonde, and throw in an obsequieous reference to people living nearby in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

On a flight from New York to Paris, soon after take-off the pilot announces: "I'm sorry, but we have lost one of our engines. Subsequently, we will arrive in Paris approximately half an hour late."

A few minutes later, he comes on again:

"Hate to disappoint you folks, but another engine is down. Don't panic - we've still got two going, but now we'll be about 2 hours late."

After another few minutes, he comes on again:

"Look, I am really sorry about this, but somehow we have lost our third engine. Still nothing serious to worry about, but we will be about five hours late to Paris."

After hearing this, a blonde turns to the guy sitting next to her and remarks,

"If we lose the other one, we'll be up here all night."

Which is all a long way of introducing the reason for today's prayer. Dear Lord, we've discovered today for the third time that beams in one of our cooling towers are on the verge of collapse. The first time, you'll remember, a tower actually collapsed. The second time our maintenance team got there with hammers, nails, and "permanent fixes" before things got photogenically calamitous. We've been fortunate again, Lord, and I thank you for that. Because not only did we discover the problem before we had to shut the plant entirely down, but the regulators from the NRC and DPS and, most importantly, the trusting people of Vermont (and nearby Massachusetts and New Hampshire) have found comfort in our assurances that cooling tower problems are not safety related.

But you've gotta wonder, Lord: When, oh when, will the regulators and public understand that, if all of the non-critical components of this aging plant are beyond our control, some of the critical components might be?

In the meanwhile, the control room operators and I are going to spend the day playing whack-a-mole. Let my phone ring; I've got to boost my own morale so I can help my employer boost everyone else's. And, anyway, I've already arranged for a reassuring video message to be played for the public. Like yesterday's message after the 60 gallon-a-minute leak was discovered, it's not actually me on the videotape. (This time it's a blonde; think "trusting Vermonter, etc." when you see her.) And, like yesterday's message, it's not exactly about nuclear power. But in talking about maps, the blonde does aptly convey my corporate optimism. Things will get better here at Vermont Yankee, because anything less would just not be fair.

That, and if this plant were an airplane, we'd have fallen out of the sky by now.

Miss Teen USA 2007 - South Carolina Answers a Question



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nobody But the NRC Says "Boo" About Safety

Dear God,

I'm right about that, aren't I? Nobody but the NRC gets to assess our safety record or put into place new regulations? Thank you, thank you, thank you for this blessing!

Because as of this afternoon people are going to want to regulate the hell out of us. Even the DPS may feel "disappointed." As you probably know (in your all-knowingness you saw this coming, right?), just a few hours ago we discovered that the plant is leaking again, prodigiously. And since we at Vermont Yankee are not as omniscient as you, we have only just figured this out, and we have yet to determine exactly how many leaks there are. Could you consider giving us some hints? Like maybe if I spun around three times and kept my eyes shut really tight while holding an 8 ball between my knees and saying three Hail Marys backwards in Pig Latin you could miraculously cause a few of my fingers to levitate, such fingers signaling a precise count of how many leaks we've sprung? One or two? Three?

Please, Lord. I need to know because I need personally to assure the public that we're ahead of the curve on this, our third leak in a very short while. I need people to know that we are normally very good at routine maintenance, or at least that we're trying harder since the NRC scolded us for being really bad at routine maintenance.

Truth be told, Lord, I've got a special PR problem regarding all of this. See, it's quittin' time. That and it's been a long day. It's even been a long week, what with the PSB hearing on Monday. I wish I'd prepared a videotaped statement regarding this new leak, but, frankly, I was too tired to do that. So I'm thinking I'll use a generic videotaped statement that I have on hand. It's not actually me in the videotape, and the person in the tape is not actually talking about a leak--or even about a nuclear power plant. But, God Almighty, he makes the very same sort of denials and assurances that I'll make tomorrow when I get to the office. So I hope to use it, but first to edit in a subtitle. Whenever the guy in the videotape says "ship," I'll have the words "cooling towers" appear in the lower third of the screen.

Created by Barrels of Sea

I dunno. I think it's good enough for government work. 'Cause I'm right, yes? Nobody but the NRC gets to say "Boo" about safety!



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Dear God,

Last night I went to the Public Service Board's hearing on Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee's petition for a Certificate of Public Good. It was held in the gym at Vernon Elementary School. The crowd was far larger than is usual for hearings like this, and I don't know if this was because last night's hearing would be one of Vermonters' last chances to be heard or if it was because the good citizens of Vernon have strong opinions about the nuclear power plant that sits across the street from the elementary school. If it was the second, I'm guessing that their opinions are largely negative about VY, for opponents of the plant vastly outnumbered its supporters.

Perhaps because we at Entergy failed to really control the message in the room, I found the evening exhausting and depressing. But I'm going to do my best to find positive things to say about it in this prayer. First and foremost, I was impressed by the gym's d├ęcor. Slogans like "Dare to Be Different" and "Do Your Best" hung on the walls, and as I took my own seat I hoped that we could all find inspiration therein. "Aim High; Work Together." "Don't Bunt. Aim Out of the Ballpark."

But nothing inspired or even inspirational happened. It almost did. It had the smidgen of a chance. For example, I was surprised and delighted when I first entered the gym and saw that prominently over the PSB table was a sign that said "Twisting Twirlers." What a great idea someone had had to arrange for the Babes of the PSB to host the hearing! But, no. The commissioners sent by the PSB were three John McCain look-alikes who turned their caring ears to each and every sob story they heard. The pro-VY'ers wailed about safety, reliability, and (damn, I can never remember the third one) … right. Greenliness. But easily 2/3 of the people in the room wanted VY closed. (I'm thinking that may also be about the percentage of Vermonters in general who'd favor closing the plant.) For the anti-nukers, the only difference between last night's meeting and all other public input nights was that, last night, not all their speakers were older than 55. Indeed, one speaker was 11 years old. Two of the most powerful speakers were mothers of young children, and they were mad as hell and clearly not in the mood to take anything anymore from Entergy.

Note to self: Make sure we give money to some rec league or something those two mothers and that kid like, and pronto. And in the meanwhile, unplug the energy to their subdivisions so they can judge for themselves how they like the reality of taking nothing from us.

There were a few exhausted bunnies in the crowd (Really! People in Playboy Bunny outfits! What will those protesters think of next?), looking so bedraggled that even though my views on energy and Entergy are different from theirs I kindly pointed out to them the one truly helpful platitude on the gym walls: "Injured? Remember RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)." Anything I can do to make a friend at this point, I'll do, conscience be damned. If I make inane overtures about first aid when it's not actually needed or if I make empty promises to help the community near Vermont Yankee flourish, it will be no worse than what my bosses have done, promising to fully fund the Decommissioning Fund, to actually fix the cooling tower problem a year ago August, to prepare the plant to handle a 20% power boost safely, to help create workable evacuation plans, to allow the oversight panel enough time to do its work well, to scale back operation if ever the fence line radiation exceeds 20 milli-Roentgens, and, of course, to shut the plant down in 2012.

And besides, making empty promises about safety, reliability, and greenliness has wonderful precedent. It's what Daniel Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor for last year in There Will Be Blood. Sure, he robbed those communities of their vigor. Sure a few people died, and he was really a monster in the end. But look at the good side. He got a lot of applause turning into a monster. I think it's safe to say that he fulfilled a lifelong dream.

"If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It." Another of the inspirational slogans on the gym walls last night. Truth be told, it was my favorite.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name

Dear God,

God, this prayer is going to be my second prayer about Sarah Palin. I know that I normally pray about nuclear power, but this Sarah Palin obsession I'm developing is not really as "off topic" as it might seem.

Lord, I've got an unnatural attraction to news stories about this woman. And not in a positive way. It's a problem how upset I can get about her. Which is weird, because I'm not even a Democrat. Or a Republican. Or an anything other than a uniformly agreeable PR flak for a major world threat. And so, up until this morning, I couldn't understand why I am focused so intently upon her.

And now I know. Sarah Palin created something of a reputation for herself as a Christian book banner in Alaska. Rumor has it that one of the books she wanted banned was Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

OMG! you might say, except that you're God so you wouldn't.

I'll bet that I'm unnaturally upset about Sarah Palin because somewhere in my subconscious I knew that she would, if given half a chance, heap her trademark scorn on me, my Are You There, God? prayer diary, and every last one of my prayers to you.

So right now, in order to distance myself emotionally from this increasingly distrubing person, I am going to list the many ways in which Sarah Palin and I are nothing at all alike.

  • Sarah Palin claims experience in foreign policy because she lives near Russia. I live near-ish Canada, and claim no such expertise, though I do make a great Baked Alaska.
  • Sarah Palin is dressed for the 70s. When I go to public input PSB or WRC meetings and the like, I am dressed for any era in the woods, all in an attempt to subliminally assure everyone that, like them, I'm a real Vermonter even though I live in Massachusetts.
  • Sarah Palin was for the "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it. (She didn’t oppose the “Bridge to Nowhere” until after her support for it helped reap Alaska a blank check for $223 million in US taxpayers’ money.) My waffling requires fewer words to explain: I wasn't against topping off the Decommissioning Fund until someone suggested that it be done.
  • Sarah Palin defends her own pregnant daughter’s right to reproductive choice even as she would deny the independent choices of all other women. I take no public position on issues that concern women other than to wish them all the best in evacuating their children if anything goes wrong here. (See my Ten Handy Evacuation Safety and Sanity Tips.)
  • Sarah Palin shoots moose. I shoot beaver. (Actually, that's a gross overstatement, and I got my genders all mixed up. What I should say is that I had at one time hoped to engage in a discreet photographic session in which Philip Baruth and The Dudes would take pictures of me draped in a towel, posed in front of the Vermont Yankee plant. And even though Philip promised his wide readership to one day post "a bold and courageous series" of nude pictures of me, as of today he continues to be one big romantic disappointment.)
  • Unlike our current Vice President, if Sarah Palin shoots you in the face, it's going to be because she was aiming for you. My actions might kill you, but I won't mean anything personal by it and it won't be entirely my fault. Furthermore, if things actually got that bad, my actions would probably help kill everyone else in this area (probably even me) and so I'd never be held personally accountable.

God, Sigmund Freud said that all fears are concealed wishes. I fear Sarah Palin, God. I even loathe her, which is probably a sin. Could it be that I actually love her?

(Cue lightning.)