Saturday, May 31, 2008

It's Hard to Work Here

Dear God,

I'm discouraged, anyway. Because I think it's possible that the activists have made the job of Nuclear Safety & Licensing Specialist so onerous that we're losing ours. And that just makes me worry that I, too, will eventually throw in the towel.

You're right, Lord. I could just be refusing to see that the glass is actually half full (I do have a job and with a company that significantly donates to community programs) and that change in general is good for organizations.

Anyway, I found this job posting yesterday:
Specialist - Nuclear Safety/License IV
Req #106190
Salary: $78,500 - $117,500

The Specialist, Nuclear Safety & Licensing will be responsible for the execution of the licensing processes and procedures at Entergy Nuclear. This includes:
• Managing of commitments
• Interface with the NRC Resident inspectors and inspection teams....

Then there's a whole bunch more stuff, ending with Qualifications, which includes "Technical understanding of nuclear generation principles and operation."

Well, duh.

You know the job that would really be a bear to have around here? Head of the Employee Assistance Program. There's almost nothing anyone can do to address this company's incredible morale problem other than cook up a batch of funny brownies and take them to a picnic. Though drinking during the day would probably do it, too.



Friday, May 30, 2008

All the News That's Fit to Miss

Oh, fortuitous circumstance, Lord!

The newspapers today are focusing on the Department of Public Services's concern about the financial health of Entergy's proposed spinoff, Enexus, and totally ignoring a better, "if it bleeds it leads" opportunity for drawing in readers.

A contractor tried to bring a handgun into Entergy's Indian Point plant in Buchanan, NY.

Yes, Enexus "would have to borrow in excess of $4.5 billion and would in effect have negative equity...." Yes, "Enexus would be below investment grade." (That's Stephen Wark I'm quoting, the Department of Public Services' Director of Consumer and Public Affairs. The quote is in this morning's Brattleboro Reformer.) And Stephen is also right when he says, "[This] places the proposed corporation at substantial market risk and calls into question the amount of funds on hand to meet unanticipated capital expenditures."

But the average reader doesn't like to read about "unanticipated capital expenditures." The average reader skips right over headlines about corporate finances. They don't believe they're smart enough to understand such matters.

Everyone, on the other hand, reads gun stories.

What were those editors possibly thinking? Don't they worry about selling newspapers anymore?

Thanks for letting me celebrate, God.


PS: (Note to self: Continue policy of no Entergy donations to after-school math programs. In the long run, math phobias serve us well.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fun with the NRC Web Site

Dear God,

Thank you, Lord, for making my life easier. You've given me an automatic garage door, an automatic coffee maker, Google, a Palm Pilot. Everything is one touch/one click, and I'm a happy boy.

And today, you've shown me the means to "one touch/one click" [I'm using it as a verb now] the part of my job that I love the least: reporting safety incidents to the local media. For, with your guidance, I've just blindly stumbled to a page on the Internet that they can use to find out about those events themselves. It's on the NRC web site. They should check every day!

Just look at the link to May 2008, Lord! It's chock full of information. Over just the past few days there were these power plant events nationally:

  • May 23 at Millstone: REACTOR TRIP DUE TO LIGHTNING STRIKE ON MAIN TRANSFORMER. "Lightning struck the main transformer for Millstone Unit 2 actuation of the reactor protection system…."
  • May 22 at Fort Calhoun: DECAY HEAT REMOVAL COOLING INTERUPTED DURING CORE RELOAD. "At 1956, during reactor core reload with a full refueling cavity, power was lost to the #2 non-vital instrument bus. This power loss resulted in closure of the shutdown cooling temperature control valve…."
  • May 22 at Diablo Canyon: MOBILE CRANE CAUSED DAMAGE TO MET TOWER. "During the performance of work activities in the vicinity of the Met Tower at 10 AM, a mobile crane made contact with a support wire causing damage to the tower. All instrumentation on the tower continues to function, but conservatively has been called inoperable…."
  • May 22 at Browns Ferry: LOSS OF CONTROL ROOM PHONE COMMUNICATIONS. "At 1515 hrs, the control room staff discovered that normal control room phone communications were not working. Additionally, the NRC emergency notification system (red phone) was not functional…."
  • May 21 at Vogtle: LOSS OF FUNCTIONALITY TO TECHNICAL SUPPORT CENTER "A condition is being reported per Technical Requirements Manual 13.13.1 Emergency Response Facilities Action 8.2. The functionality of the Technical Support Center [TSC] has been lost due to the failure of the TSC Chiller to maintain chilled water within the normal control band…."
  • May 21 at San Onofre: OFFSITE POWER GRID DISTURBANCE. "On Tuesday, May 20, 2008, at approximately 1310 PDT, the offsite power grid connected to San Onofre experienced a momentary system disturbance…."
  • May 21 at Fort Calhoun. DECAY HEAT REMOVAL COOLING INTERUPTED DURING CORE RELOAD. "At 1956, during reactor core reload with a full refueling cavity, power was lost to the #2 non-vital instrument bus. This power loss resulted in closure of the shutdown cooling temperature control valve, HCV-341…."
  • On May 19 at Surrey: FAILED RELAY CAUSES EMERGENCY DIESEL GENERATOR TO START. "At 0904 on 5/17/2008, ' D' and 'E' transfer busses were lost due to a failed relay on a supply breaker in the switchyard…."

This page is probably where all sorts of Vermont Yankee events have been reported—-the 62 cracks in the steam dryer, the current unresolved condenser leak, last fall's cooling tower collapse, the missing spent fuel rod, the valve problem resulting in a scram, yadda yadda ho hum. Even the little ones get reported here. Instead of taking all of the heat myself and questions from the media after all of those events, I could have just sat back, relaxed, and let everyone find out themselves, one touch/one click. Full details are available. I actually can't find mention of the recent crane malfunction regarding the dry cask but, frankly, there's probably a limit to what the public needs to know.

Thanks for letting me know, Lord, even if you did let me know a few years late. And, hey, Lord? What about the future? Is there a one touch/one click page that can show the media unexpected problems to come? I'm asking because, well, you know those journalists. They're always on deadline and would appreciate a heads up now and then, and I like to keep them on my side.



Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Golden Oldies of Nuclear Terrorism

Wow, God! Look at this!

The e-newsletter HS Today (HS="homeland security") reported on May 21 that as late as last year, "the NRC was unable to assess the adequacy of security at the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear power plants at 65 facilities in 31 states."

See, the HS Today editor is all hot around the collar about security because, at a nuclear power plant in southern Sweden, two contract workers were arrested "on suspicion of planning sabotage after a bag one was carrying was found to have traces of an explosive known to be used by terrorists…."

I don't know why the poor HS Today editor is letting the Sweden event get to him. I mean, it's not like he's Swedish or anything.

That man needs to acquire some perspective. And so I've taken the trouble of drawing up for him a reassuring list I call…

The Golden Oldies of Nuclear Terrorism
If We Survived These Plots, We'll Survive 'Em All, Probably

  • In 1969 a dynamite bomb was discovered near the University of Illinois, Urbana nuclear research reactor.
  • In 1970, a pipe bomb was found at the Point Beach 1 nuclear power plant near Two Creeks, Wisconsin.
  • In Nov. 1971, an arsonist lit the Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant at Buchanan, New York.
  • Also in 1971 someone tampered dangerously with valves and switches at valves and switches at Commonwealth Edison’s Zion Nuclear Station near Chicago.
  • Someone severed cables and clogged helium filters at the Ft. St. Vrain nuclear plant in Colorado.
  • And once, back in the 70s, an intruder at our own Vermont Yankee an intruder entered the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and wounded a night security guard before escaping.
  • In 1977, in Columbia, Oregon, The Environmental Assault Unit of the New World Liberation Front exploded a bomb at Portland General Electric Company's Trojan nuclear power plant.

And so on for another 31 years. Actually, Lord, as far back as 1976 the NRC declared that there had already been more than 100 bomb threats against nuclear sites in America. I wonder how many have accrued to-date?

Do you think this list will get the HS Today editor to calm down? 'Cause his nerves are making me nervous.

Thanks, Lord.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Dear Lord,

Do you read the Brattleboro Reformer? If so, did you happen to catch the article, "Use of Wind Energy Expected to Grow Dramatically"?

What is that article talking about, Lord? I've read it and all I can see is an expectation of a lot of hot air.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

The article says, "[A] report, a collaboration between the Energy Department research labs and industry, concludes wind energy could generate 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, about the same share now produced by nuclear reactors."

I can just imagine that after they read that, all those beatnik anti-nukers started tapping their ash trays on table tops at Mocha Joe's, lunatic with happiness over the idea that nuclear energy has been proven superfluous.

But just wait, Lord. Just wait until whoever is behind the production of wind ends up on the receiving end of complaints about wind radiation, wind safety, wind evacuation plans, and, worst, wind decommissioning funds. Then we'll see who is laughing.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

God, do you have any idea who produces the wind? Because if you do, I'd like to send him my resume, just in case.

Amen, Lord.

Fake-Rob (a/k/a The Last Man Laughing)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Wrath of the Tooth Fairy

Dear God!

Ok, so the crane broke when we tried to move a dry cask brimming with spent fuel rods. So what? The cask was only 4 inches from the ground, and it didn't actually fall to the floor. Even if it had, they've tested those things. Holtec dry casks can fall off a flatbed truck onto a paved road without springing a leak. You can do almost anything to those casks and they survive. The only potential problem that I know of is that no one has tested whether they would survive a sustained, super-hot, rapidly exploding tunnel fire like the kind that might happen if someone were to bomb a tunnel packed with gassed-up automobiles while the casks were being driven through it to a national storage site. But I'm not going to start worrying about transportation hazards now just because some dumb crane got all bumbly on us. And besides, everyone knows that Yucca Mountain will never open. Transportation disasters are the least of our worries.

Here's what I am worried about today. From the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate late last week:

WESTPORT- The Radiation and Public Health Project released reports yesterday suggesting that Fairfield County residents may face greater health risks because of their proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

In a press conference, Joseph Mangano, the group's executive director, discussed the findings of its Tooth Fairy Project, as well as a study of childhood death rates because of cancer in the region.

The RPHP tested 500 baby teeth from areas surrounding Indian Point, including 32 from Fairfield County.

Test results found the highest levels of Strontium-90, a radioactive isotope associated with bone tumors, were in counties surrounding the Buchanan, N.Y. plant, including Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland.

The next highest level belonged to Fairfield County.

I'm no geography expert, Lord, but, extrapolating from that bit of news, this may mean that if we examined the teeth of the children across the street from the Vermont Yankee plant (they are all conveniently located weekdays, all day, at the Vernon Elementary School), we'd find that they, like the teeth of the children in Fairfield, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, and Rockland counties, hold terribly high levels of Strotium-90. Which of course means that they all might therefore be at elevated risk of developing bone cancer.

Another extrapolation: The teeth of kids in Newfane, Vermont and Keene, NH would probably also show a high level of Strotium-90. (Yes, children that far away could be affected. By far the majority of the children whose teeth were examined in the study by The Radiation and Public Health Project live outside the 10-mile evacuation zone surrounding Indian Point. The researchers even examined the baby teeth of children in New York City, 24 miles away, and they don't look so good.)

In and around Indian Point, has elevated Strotium-90 in baby teeth actually translated into elevated death rates? Well, ...

Mangano said that childhood and adolescent death rates for cancer in Fairfield County are 4 percent above the U.S. average, but the death rate for other diseases is 20 percent below the rest of the country.

You're right, Lord. That's not necessarily a causal relationship. (I love it when you get me to say words like "causal relationship." They make me sound like a critical thinker.)

Anyway, the Stamford Advocate article represents one big "Ouch!" for my efforts to convince Vermonters that Entergy Vermont Yankee has not been steadily damaging their health and the health of people in nearby Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Because, surely, news of The Radiation and Public Health Project study at Indian Point is going to "swim" north and hit the papers in Vermont. My problem as the plant PR guy will be to give the public a friendly, Entergy-supportive way to metabolize the news.

And so I've devised a game.

Take a revolver. Put bullets in only one of the six chambers. Drink a lot of vodka while you and your friends talk in hokey Russian accents. Then use the gun on your own head. If you survive, call us at Entergy Vermont Yankee and we'll suggest more fun games to play.

That's all from here, Lord! Thanks for listening to my worries. Sometimes I get scared and lose all perspective.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wackenhut Again, I Say unto Thee

Dear Lord,

I bet you get tired of hearing complaints day in, day out, era after era, planet after planet. I know I'm tired! If I hear one more yapper mouth on about pennies here, pennies there, yadda yadda from, for example, the decommissioning fund, I think I'm going to blow my lid -- and let me tell you, Lord, if I blow my lid I can take an awful lot of people out with me! (So can anyone here, natch.)

Anyway, they're squabbling down in Florida about money and I'm hoping against hope that this particular fight doesn't make its way north, for it concerns Wackenhut, our security firm. News of that squabble reaching Vermont would definitely not be good, considering that we just got slapped with a significant security violation from the NRC, possibly during a "force on force" test.

Apparently, in Florida, Wackenhut has been guarding the Metrorail and the Juvenile Assessment Center in Miami Dade County. An audit found that Wackenhut may have overbilled the county by millions of dollars.

According to the web site of CBS4, "After a three year investigation, County spokeswoman Vicki Mallette said an audit found the Wackenhut Corp. overbilled the county more than $2 million a year for work that security guards never performed. 'We are prepared to cancel all contracts with the Wackenhut Corporation and demand all the money that is owed to us,' County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said."

But there's more to the story than just that: CBS4 also reported that, "'Based on our look at the Metrorail and the Juvenile Assessment Center together, we believe that the total figure is about $4 million a year, times seven years, or $28 million,' said Mark Veith. Veith is the lawyer representing the insiders at Wackenhut who acted as whistleblowers in the case. He also believes security was compromised in certain places because of this."

Dear God, please make sure that no public audit will ever be performed of Wackenhut's charges to Entergy Vermont Yankee (and of the effect of any over-billing, should it occur, on the price of electricity). Also, please help us avoid any thorough public audit of the quality of the security Wackenhut provides. Also, please continue to keep quiet about what the security problem is at Vermont Yankee, as well as about what level of concern the NRC has about the problem. (All the public knows so far is that the NRC has classified it as "greater than green").

Amen again, I say unto thee,


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lying Has Been Bery, Bery Good to Me

Dear God,

Some people want to call me and even the entire managerial staff at Entergy Vermont Yankee to task for some of the truth-stretching we've done in making claims about radiation safety, structural integrity, the soundness of our plan to store high-level radioactive waste near the flood plain, the integrity of our security force, the adequacy of the decommissioning fund, and the impact on safety of our occasionally drug- or alcohol-impaired employees. But, Lord, you can tell all of those people concerned about health and safety to rest easy. Because it turns out that, by stretching the truth, we've been chalking up another mark of evidence of the Entergy Vermont Yankee commitment to health and safety! Or, as the New York Times recently explained, lying can be Step Number One on the path to self-improvement.

The popular notion of a pathological liar is of a person plagued by the anxiety necessary to "cover" the lie. But, according to the Times, as long as the lie tangentially relates to the truth of the matter, lying doesn't necessarily increase anxiety in the liar. Indeed, lies often reflect "positive goals for the future" and liars often work to "live up to the enhanced self-images they project." And that can only be good, especially around here.

This means that:

  • By claiming despite all evidence and despite plain common sense that the constant stream of radiation emitted by the plant has no adverse health consequences, we are reaching towards our goal of protecting the children of Vernon Elementary School (literally across the street from the plant and in the age bracket that makes them highly vulnerable to radiation-induced cancer) from radiation-induced cancer.
  • By assuring the public that the cooling towers are structurally sound, we know we one day might make them structurally sound.
  • By claiming that an 18-inch margin of safety in our plan to store high-level radioactive waste near the oft-flooded river is safe, we are reversing global warming, making it safe (in this era of rising sea and river levels) to put that waste pretty much anywhere we please.
  • By believing in the Wackenhut security company, employees of which have been caught sleeping en masse at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant, abandoning posts, disassembling their arms, and allegedly even participating in the repeated rape of a 14-year old, we have given that firm and its employees confidence in their ability to secure our future.
  • By saying that half a decommissioning fund is decommissioning fund enough, we have changed the nature of money.
  • And by waving on concerns about our occasionally drug- or alcohol-impaired employees, we have given pot and booze the good names they have long deserved.

Amen, Lord. It's nice to know we've gotten something right for a change.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Situation Normal, All Frothed Up

Oh, God,

Will it never stop? And if not, must it go on now just as our legislative troubles are in a virtual lather?

As you know, our security force is provided by Wackenhut, a contractor servicing much of the nuclear industry and many prisons. Their reputation is dicey--partly because a whole roomful of guards at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant was caught on videotape snoozing their shift away, partly because some guards at Turkey Point nuclear power plant were less than responsible with their guns, and partly because of scandals like the repeated rape of a 14 year old by Wackenhut guards.

Anyway, now there's more trouble with Wackenhut. At Three-Mile Island, a Wackenhut guard abandoned his post. Of course, plant safety "was never jeapardized."

Never is.



Sunday, May 4, 2008

You Say You Want an Evolution

Dear God,

Those of us in the PR Department at Entergy Vermont Yankee go to great lengths to try to convince the legislators, the Department of Public Service, and the people of Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire and Massachusetts that VY is on the leading edge of the next great wave of global warming antidotes and that we, the staff, take seriously our obligation to protect the health and safety of the community around us. But items like this one from our HR Department make it hard for those of us in PR to keep much of a poker face while we say all of that good stuff that we need to say.

The item:

At the VY Human Resources department posted a job for "Supervisor, Radiation Protection." It's a well-paying job, too--"Salary: $76,000 - $114,000" and applicants don't even need a college degree. Apparently, what's more important in the Radiation Protection department at Vermont Yankee than a knowledge of either radiation or protection is knowing how to juggle "conflicting priorities" (like health vs. profits?) and "function within the budget" (yep; health vs. profits). Furthermore, while a thorough understanding of the topics at hand is not a must, what we'd really like in an applicant is someone with "at least 5 years experience in PR Operations."

And why would our Supervisor of Radiation Protection need more expertise in PR than in Radiation Protection? So that he or she can help with the gargantuan job of convincing people that we're protecting them from radiation poisoning when we're not? Quoting from a Reformer article of 9/14/2007:

[A]nother Chernobyl or 9/11 situation may not be necessary to affect the health of residents near Vermont Yankee. All reactors routinely emit over 100 radioactive chemicals found only in atomic bombs or nuclear reactors into the air and water. These chemicals enter the body through breathing and the food chain, where they kill and injure cells. Each chemical can cause cancer and is especially harmful to infants and children.
The radioactive cocktail includes Strontium-90, which attaches to bone; Cesium-137, which disperses throughout soft tissues; and Iodine-131, which seeks out the thyroid gland. While levels of these chemicals that enter bodies are relatively low, a blue-ribbon National Academy of Sciences panel concluded in 2005 that there is no safe dose of radiation.

Windham County, where Vermont Yankee is located, has no obvious characteristics that place it at high risk for disease. Compared to other Vermont counties, Windham has about the same proportion of elderly, minorities, foreign born residents, educational level, income, and poverty level. The county has no unusually great concentration of polluting industry. It also has access to world-class medical care in Boston.

But in the past quarter century, Windham death rates for infants, children, and young adults are 13% to 37% above the rest of the state. A total of 244 deaths in county residents under age 35 occurred during this time. Because the youngest are at greatest risk for health problems from radiation exposure, this patterns raises questions.

The county death rate from cancer, for people of all ages, was 5% below the rest of Vermont two decades ago, but now has risen to a level 10% above – even though current death rates in Windham for all other causes are 1% below the rest of the state.

There are many contributing factors that can account for deaths in young people and from cancer. But none are apparent to explain the high rates in Windham County. A thorough investigation of potential reasons should be undertaken by health authorities, and emissions from Vermont Yankee should be one of these.

Would we want someone with PR experience to help us deflect public concern from VY's consistently bizarre allocation of monetary and personnel resources? Do we want help making sure that VY can continue to brag about providing well-paying jobs (and apparently we do provide well paying jobs, even to high school graduates) while hoping against hope that the public won't ask whether the folks we've hired to protect our workers and the public from radiation poisoning are, indeed, qualified to protect them?

To borrow some choice words from my buddy Philip Baruth, who slammed me when I used the word "evolution" to describe the gradual disintegration of our condenser's ability to keep river water from leaking in where it's not supposed to be, "VY’s language [in this job posting] is exceptionally upfucked, even for VY." Exceptionally "downfucked," actually, is what I'd say about HR's language in this job posting.

But ... you know it was probably just a typo in that job posting. In which case, don't you know it's gonna be (scooby doo) all right? And don't you wish that the staff at the nuclear power plant near you were a little better at paying attention to what keys they're pushing when?



Friday, May 2, 2008

Spam F*&K D@#K Boob Job J. Wayne Leonard's Salary

Dear God,

We've had some PR trouble this week:

  1. Philip Baruth made fun of one of my colleague's press releases, in which she announced that "Enexus Energy Corporation" is the new, official name for NewCo and that EquaGen LLC would be a joint venture between Entergy and Enexus and would operate the Enexus plants.

  2. The NRC complained that we didn't adequately "sell" them on the quality of the nozzle test calculations that we used to assure everyone that relicensing the Vermont Yankee plant for another 20 years would be safe.

  3. The NRC also announced that it has not "bought" our plan to raid for spent fuel storage expenses the funds set aside for decommissioning Vermont Yankee.

And so, with trouble to the right of me and trouble to the left of me, I have enrolled in an online PR course to enhance my PR skills. Please, Lord, would you look over these draft email press releases and give me some feedback?

Increase cooling tower strength and stability by 20% and add 2-3 centimeters to length while you're add it! Safe herbal formula, no side effects, 100% guaranteed results. No more being shy in the showers after gym or in public toilets. Your edifice will stand with pride. Go ahead. Be the man you've always wanted to be!

Good evening, dear Friend. It is time to be ready for sex! How? We are proud to introduce our Lovers Package. Click here to see real college girls teach you that our energy prices are the lowest ones around. Those prices will stay low for another 3-1/2 years! And then they'll go up! So buy now. If you act quickly we'll send you any medication you can name against sexual dysfunction. Just name 'em; we'll ship 'em. Good Bye.


Failure always leaves a mark on a man's face, just like success does, and women can read those marks awfully well. Be a broad-chested guy with a confident look in his eyes and a swagger in his step. Women will think: "There's something about that man. He looks so confident! This could be interesting." Call Entergy for nozzle effect recalculation surgery right away. But act fast! We'll be changing our name soon to keep you guessing. And why wait? There is no downside that I can think of to trusting us completely.

What do you think, Lord? Should I load in the distribution list and click send?

Fake-Rob (a/k/a Equabob)