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 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, 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.