Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Absolutely Brillig!

Dear Lord,

The emergency is over, and the employees are back in the Vermont Yankee plant. But this happy bit of news was too late for press time, so, as usual, the Reformer will only be carrying the disturbing news:

Operator error during a routine maintenance task led to the temporary evacuation of the reactor building at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon Tuesday morning.

There was a release of radioactive materials in the plant but no release from the plant. As reported in the Reformer, I explained that, "While there was no significant safety hazard for workers in the plant or outside, by procedure employees were relocated from some areas in the plant during that time."

According to Neil Sheehan, spokesperson for the NRC, "This is not a safety issue."
Well of course it isn't. Nothing here is. But Sheehan also said (again, according to the Reformer), "Our resident inspectors were … informed that chemistry results showed it was an air slug that went into the reactor vessel, potentially causing a crud burst and subsequent radiation level increases."

Well, we can't have dangerous air slugs crawling around, insinuating themselves into cruddy machine parts, can we? And so yours truly took his vorpal sword in hand. Long time the manxome foe I sought. So rested me by the Tumtum tree and stood a while in thought.

I'm sure you know the rest, God. It involves some uffish thinking, a burble or two, and a galumph.

But we're safe now. Have an absolutely frabjous rest of the day!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Close Encounters of the Same Kind

Dear God!

The long and the short of it is that I've found a joke about politicians that works just fine for Entergy executives.

A busload of politicians were driving down a country road when the bus suddenly ran off the road and crashed into an old farmer's field. The old farmer heard the tragic crash so he rushed over to investigate. He then began digging a large grave to bury the politicians.

A few hours later, the local sheriff was driving past the farmer's field and noticed the bus wreck. He approached the old farmer and asked where all the politicians had gone. The old farmer explained that he'd gone ahead and buried all of them. "Were they ALL dead?" asked the puzzled sheriff. "Well, some of them said they weren't," said the old farmer, "but you know how them politicians lie."

Will we never learn? is a web site with jobs for nuclear workers. Apparently Entergy has advertised on for employees to fill a total of 453 jobs. (That statistic is from the web site.) I certainly have not checked all 453 job postings, but it seems to me from the ads that I have checked that the Vermont Yankee ads consistently give misinformation about the ownership of Vermont Yankee.

Actually, in a prayer on July 16, 2007, I pointed that out to you. All Vermont Yankee job postings that I referred to in that prayer said that Vermont Yankee is owned by…

Entergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, ... [and] an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. We own and operate power plants, and are the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. This position will be located at our Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, VT.

In my prayer of that date, I also said,…

Odd, huh? I thought that the "message" we are all supposed to "be on" at Vermont Yankee is that Entergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, doesn't own Vermont Yankee. The relatively asset-free Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee does.

In the intervening month and a half, not much has changed in the Vermont Yankee ads on Entergy is still identified as the owner of Vermont Yankee. For example, in job postings dated August 12, 2008:

  • An ad for an Auxiliary Operator specifies that the plant is owned by Entergy, "a Fortune 500 company, etc., etc." The ad extols Entergy's benefits program and assures everyone that Entergy is an equal opportunity employer.
  • An ad for a Senior Engineer has the same specs and assurances, and
  • The ad for a Maintenance Coordinator does, too, though that ad does specify that "This posting is for a prospective Enexus/Equagen position" and then qualifies that statement saying that it is pending regulatory approval.


Does this mean that the first two positions will actually be Entergy positions at an Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee-owned plant? Will the third position will be an Enexus/Equagen position or an Entergy position? And if it's the former, why did the ad even mention the latter? And if it's the latter, why did the ad mention the former? For isn't the plant actually owned by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and not--as we've been saying repeatedly and ad naseum whenever we're asked about our financial responsibilities regarding the toxic mess we've created--Entergy?

How loosey-goosey can companies be when writing employment ads? Could Pepsi Cola, for example, claim in an employment ad that its people will work for Boeing at Six Flags? Could Vermont Yankee claim that new hires will work for Wal Mart, a Fortune 500 Company etc. etc., at the local multiplex cinema?

I'm reminded of a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when, in the midst of serenely observing the most confounding of situations, the chief scientist Claude Lacombe (played by Francois Truffaut) says, "Major Walsh, it is an event sociologique."

So now, Lord, you know why I love space alien movies. It's for the same reason I love French. Someday there will be a lot of explaining to do about everything that is going on here. Though I will be nervous, all eyes will be upon me and I will have to appear serene and sound smart. This means that I'll need to serve clever lines to reporters as quickly and deftly as if I were a master badminton player and truths and half-truths mere shuttlecocks.

Either that or get buried prematurely.



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Revealed! Vermont Yankee Is Actually a Giant Cheesecloth

Dear God,

Vermont Yankee has come under fire recently for being a Louisiana-owned power behemoth with no affinity for the state of Vermont. But careful, after-hours investigation by yours truly has revealed that those charges are patently false and misleading. Vermont Yankee is a Louisiana-owned cheesecloth with no affinity for the state of Vermont.

This revelation should go a long way toward explaining the leaks that have been plaguing us.

The revelation that Vermont Yankee is actually a loosely woven piece of gauzy cloth should also help us all see that, rather than engage in a polarized debate about a dangerously decaying and entirely unnecessary monstrosity that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands, we can get together as a like-minded community and make custard, tofu, thick yogurt, and (lest we forget) cheese.

I tell you all this, Lord, just in case someone from VPIRG prays that you help them close down the plant by 2012. Just tell them, Lord, that those of us who love Vermont love cheese and cheesecloth.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Products in August

Dear God,

I don't know if you've noticed, but it's August down here. Remember what Andrew Card, President Bush's chief of staff, once said about August?

From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.

He said that to explain why he jimmied the timing of certain data. That jimmying helped lead our country into its current senseless war.

I'm not sure how I feel about that war, Lord, but I do know that Andrew Card was right about August. That's why we here at Vermont Yankee contacted the press in June when we wanted to introduce the "new product" of no health risk to anyone of living near Vermont Yankee. We were basing our claim on the results of the 2007 Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station Surveillance Report; full data were not available to the public at that time, and so we knew that whatever spin we put on the report couldn't be questioned.

Now it could be questioned. But now it's August!

The full report is actually dated June 30, but was only released to the public by the state of Vermont in very late July. Because people who were inclined to read the 121 page report had to carve out time to do so, their concerns are only now coming out. But tuff noogies!!!!! Everyone's in an August state of mind. How do you spell "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah?" (I spell it ""Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah.")

Anyway, one of those careful readers of our report has raised some interesting questions. He is Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA of the Radiation and Public Health Project. In his "Comments on 2007 Vermont Environmental Radioactivity Report" he raises serious questions about, for example: the adequacy of the instrumentation, the failure to measure for the most dangerous radioactive chemicals, the failure to measure contamination at any site immediately across the river in New Hampshire, the failure to compare data with data gathered at other nuclear power facilities, the failure to include data from other years to identify trends, the failure to measure radioactivity in the bodies of local residents, the failure to note that radioactivity in the river is much higher downstream from the plant than up, the failure to compare radiation levels to levels at sites so distant from VY that they can provide a good comparison, the inclusion of unsubstantiated assumptions about low dose radioactivity and health, and the failure to announce one particularly distressing statistic. Death rates from cancer are 7.4% higher in Windham County than in the remainder of Vermont.

But, really…. It's August. We announced in June that there were no health risks. No one cares to hear more.

Except, of course, that someone might care. There is a remote possibility that one or more general citizens in the area (legislators, to be specific) may pay attention to the questions that are being raised about the integrity of the report. It is, of course, my job to watch out for possibilities like that. And so, to appeal to the beach-bleached minds of any Vermont legislator who is concerned, I've composed some poetry that will make our product ("risk-free power") memorable, even in August.

Here goes:

A certain young lady went swimmin'
While wearing gossamer linen.
Fake-Rob got depressed
When he saw her bare whatever.
Then he warned her to swim upstream from the plant rather than downstream so as to avoid the appreciable health risks of encountering the downstream radiation.

There was a young man from War-ren'
Whose point was as sharp as a pen.
On the night of his wedding
He poked through the bedding
Whereupon he used his point to write a report claiming that there are "no significant adverse health effects from radiological exposures are likely from the operation of" Vermont Yankee.

There was a sweet lady from Brighton
Whose sexual favors were frightenin'.
She said that she'd scoff
at the idea of "enough",
But then she thought about the jobs that Vermont Yankee has brought to the area and realized that she could make a clean living in a union job and she shouted, "Enough!" at the next lout who even looked at her in a salacious manner.

On the chest of a barmaid from Bridgewater
Were inscribed all the prices of firewater.
Whilst on her behind
for the sake of the blind
Were precisely the same, but in a document that was not revealed to the public in a timely fashion.

Old Mrs. Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To give her poor dog a bone
When she bent over
The dog she called Rover
Issued a 121-page report, impressive mostly for its length, about radiation and its possible health effects . [NB, God: In the interest of honesty, I must point out that this isn't technically a limerick.]

There was an old geeser in Bristol
Who'd lost all the use of his pistol.
His wife was most willin'
To do somethin' thrillin'
And so he saw his doctor and got some Viagra. Because, hey, the 2007 Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station Surveillance Report didn't say much about cancer, so he thought he and his wife might as well make good use of all the wonderful years they had left.

Thanks for listening to my rambling thoughts, Lord. Happy vacation.



Monday, August 11, 2008

John Edwards Catches Narcissism from a Toilet Seat (And So Can We)

Dear God,

Item 1: The state health department changed the way it measured radiation at Vermont Yankee without getting the approval of a legislative committee. If they hadn't changed the method, we would have exceeded the specified limit by a long shot. But they did, and we came in under the wire, and now people are suspicious. And we don't care.

Item 2: I refused to say anything definitive when pressed to assert that Entergy and Vermont Yankee will honor the right of either the state legislature or the DPS to withhold from Vermont Yankee the right to operate the plant after its current license expires in 2012. People are nervous and angry. And we don't care.

Actually, I care, Lord, deeply. Vermont Yankee is having an image slump as a result of these two items, and if I let that slump continue I may get a poor employee evaluation. Grabbing the horns of this dilemma (don't you love the image, Lord?) I have devised a plan that is based largely on my long-held belief that a truly effective PR effort has to be tied either to a calendar event or a current news item. This week, I'm opting for "news item."

John Edwards sleeps with a woman he "doesn't love" and pleads narcissism. We exhibit some hoary corporate behavior and plead.... Now you're catching on, Lord. Let's look for a moment at how the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (edition 4) defines narcissism.

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

Do you see the similarity between our current PR problem and the current big news story now?

Anyway, the task before me is to prove that we here at Vermont Yankee are only narcissistic in the same cute, forgivable, "hey, even Jimmy Carter lusted in his heart" way that John Edwards is. And so I've devised the following test that we, as an institution, will, of course, pass. Or flunk. I can't figure out which way to phrase that to best PR effect. Anyway, here is my just-off-the-press test:


My name is

When I'm caught in a lie I get

I have enough problems on my hands without worrying about other people's

I am more than most people or institutions.


I'm not quite sure, Lord, how to score this thing, but then thinking ideas through to their conclusions has never been my long suit.

Anyway, I'm going to pass this test around for upper management approval. In the meanwhile, I gotta go to my $400 hair cut. Feel free to get in line. Management is buying one for everyone. Oh, and if I were you, Lord, I wouldn't use the men's room toilet, at least not until it's been disinfected.