Saturday, February 28, 2009

If You Watch "The China Syndrome" Backwards

Dear God,

If you watch "The China Syndrome" backwards:

It's a story about a peppy reporter, played by Jane Fonda, who is concerned about how damaging on-the-job stress can be for nuclear power plant employees when they think that the plant they work for is endangering the lives of others. One stressed out employee holds a gun on control room operators and gets killed as a result. Another stressed out employee dies in a car accident. But a meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission produces a generalized calm. People start driving more reasonably and behaving better. This allows the Jane Fonda character to get back to reporting human interest stories and worrying about her hair.



Friday, February 27, 2009

Safe, Clean, and Green

Dear God,

Clean coal isn't safe, clean, or green, either.



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Solar Power than Can Be Generated By a Nuclear Plant!

Dear God,

The largest series of solar installations in history is planned for the desert outside Los Angeles, and it will deliver more electricity than even the largest nuclear plant.

This won't be solar-panel power, it will be solar thermal power. Through a consetellation of 7 arrays of the sort you see here, the sun's rays will be concentrated to create steam in boilers and spin turbines. Together the "plants" will deliver 3.7 billion kilowatt hours of power per year—enough, probably, to power a city the size of San Francisco.

Thank God, God, that we don't have the expansive desert here in the Northeast in which to fit all those solar energy suckers. Thank goodness, Goodness, that we don't have out-of-work people that this sort of approach to energy production would employ. We keep our pasty-skinned, anxious workers busy, thank you very much, fixing the radioactive leaks and crumbling towers you've deemed our burden. They noodle with evacuation plans. They attend public meetings. They keep their eyes and thoughts away from the snowy mountains and meadows that could reflect sunlight so gloriously and bounce it onwards to a new life of service.

Thank heavens, Heavens, that solar thermal schemes have been proven to be less than wunderkinds financially. Or at least one has. Kind of. Well, it wasn't really disappointing, and it wasn't really the opposite of that, either. See, the only currently operating solar thermal facility in America was built during the 1980s in the Mojave Desert. It was launched with a lot of hope. Shortly afterward, energy and gas prices plummeted and thermal stopped getting headlines. Though that first plant is still operating, which means that it probably is reliable--and safe. And it sure looks clean.

Anyway, Lord, I thank you for the gifts you have given us. Jim Douglas. David O'Brien. Patrick Moore. Real Rob. J. Wayne. Danny Lichtenfeld.

Praise the Lord, Lord.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Do You Spell E-P-I-D-E-M-I-O-L-O-G-Y?

Dear God,

In Brattleboro on February 25 (and in Bellows Falls on February 26), German epidemiologist Dr. Winfrid Eisenberg will talk about a study that looked at 24 years worth of statistics regarding children who live near or around normally functioning nuclear power plants. The plants are in Germany. The children were from 0-4 years old.

The study's scientists discovered that the closer a child lives to a nuclear power plant, the higher the risk of cancer, especially leukemia. Children living within a three-mile radius of the plant have double the cancer risk.

Well, duh. Why do you think Entergy donated radiation suits for the kindergartners at Vernon Elementary School? And they're five- and six-year olds! Don't we get extra credit for being extra careful?

Look, it's not like Dr. Eisenberg is a fifth-generation Vermonter or anything. ("Ich bin ein Vermonter." As if.) Can't we stop him from coming? Can't we use the same logic that anti-nuke activists tried to use when they wanted to stop Entergy New Orleans from buying Vermont Yankee?

"Vermont für Vermonters!"

And besides, remember what I said at the beginning of this prayer? Those damning epidemiological statistics are from nuclear power plants that were functioning normally. Vermont Yankee, on the other hand, has not been doing that for quite a while. There was the spectacular cooling tower collapse and the repeated issues with the cooling towers despite our assurances that we've fixed their structural problems. There was (still is, I think) the elevated fenceline radiation. There was the discovery of many new cracks in the steam dryer. There was the crane incident, in which a 90-ton gantry cask of radioactive waste was allowed to slowly drop to the floor. Most recently Vermont Yankee has developed a radioactive leak that just won't quit.

As I told the Associated Press, our several attempts to fix the leak have failed.

And as the NRC said about a similar leak at Connecticut's Millstone Unit 2, these leaks, "have the potential to cause a loss-of-coolant accident and to result in personnel injury or death."

So what Dr. Eisenberg is about to tell the community about the danger of normally functioning nuclear power plants is inappropriate information for the community surrounding Vermont Yankee.

But this plant is not normal.

Let's make that as clear as we possibly can. There are no data available for plants like this one. For who could possibly gather useful longitudinal data for a plant with problems as bad as ours?

Plants this scary get shut down.




Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Audacity of Dope

Dear God,

Yes, yes. I heard. Now J.P. Morgan has joined Jeffries & Co. and Deutsche Bank in downgrading Entergy stock. Specifically, J.P. Morgan has dropped Entergy's rating to Neutral from Overweight and has lowered its price target. That's more bad financial news for the company that pretends to have half a billion dollars at the ready, no problem, just in case decommissioning eventually requires it, all the while arguing that it actually doesn't own Vermont Yankee any longer and so actually doesn't have to have any of those dollars at the ready.

But today there is good news to be had, as well!

Vermont Yankee has given birth to octuplets!

In a grateful nod to Nadya Suleman, who, in thanks to You for Your bounty, has given each of her 8 newborns a middle name of Angel, Vermont Yankee has named its babies A-H as follows:

  • Low-Level Radioactive Leaks and Waste Angel Vermont Yankee
  • High-Level Radioactive Leaks and Waste Angel Vermont Yankee
  • Half a Billion Dollars Short in the Decommissioning Fund Angel Vermont Yankee
  • Enexus Angel Vermont Yankee
  • No Need to Protect Nuclear Power Plants from a Plane Crash (because Who Ever Heard of Diving a Plane into a Terrorist Target?) Angel Vermont Yankee
  • Inability to Keep Adequate Track of Spent Fuel Rods Angel Vermont Yankee
  • Lies about High-Level Radioactive Waste Going to Yucca Mountain Angel Vermont Yankee
  • Come to Think of It, It's a Good Thing Waste Will Stay in Vermont Because Terrorists Could Blow It Up In Transit and Ignite a Traffic-Jammed Tunnel, for Example, and Thereby Poison a Whole City and Even Region Angel Vermont Yankee

In celebration of the birth of these octuplets, Vermont Yankee is quietly planning to go on the nuclear industry equivalent of general relief. (Which is to say that we plan to pass on to taxpayers as many of the financial obligations related to these octuplets as we possibly can.)

PR problems that may arise:

  • Vermont Yankee will be accused of being "fixated" on having children like the little Angels we're now announcing. In the event of such accusations, we will becomingly admit that we've always wanted to have children, and that we try to pay attention to each child for at least 45 minutes each day.
  • Vermont Yankee's other children will be profiled, and in a way that is unflattering to our continuing efforts to be model parents. People may even drag the names of our eight other, "non-Angel" children--The Lawsuit by Massachusetts to Stop Relicensing Vermont Yankee, The 90-Ton Gantry Cask of Radioactive Junk that We Let Slowly Drop to the Floor, The Many Additional Cracks in the Steam Dryer, The Spectacular 2007 Cooling Tower Collapse and Our Efforts to Make Light of It, The Ongoing Structural Problems with Cooling Towers, The Elevated Fenceline Radiation, and The Contention Between the Vertical Audit Public Oversight Panel and the commissioner of the Department of Public Service--through the mud. In the event of such below-the-belt attacks, we will hint that all of our executives, including CEO J. Wayne Leonard whose five-year compensation Forbes estimates at $45.84 million, will bite the bullet and fly coach somewhere some day.

In other news: Did you hear about the plans by The North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project to build a biomass plant in Springfield? They say they have the resources to build it without additional financing, and that it will permanently employ about 25 people full time. One hundred people or so will be employed during the building phase.



Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yes, We Have None

Dear God,

Bad news.

  • On February 2, Jefferies & Co. downgraded Entergy stock to "Hold" from "Buy."

  • Market Watch reports that "Entergy Corp.'s 2008 fourth-quarter net income fell 12%." (That's way bigger than the 8% drop that Entergy itself had forecast.)

  • All of this is happening in the very midst of our efforts to convince the Vermont legislature that we have the financial resources to handle decommissioning without topping off the decommissioning fund, which is currently about half a billion dollars short.

  • We're eating crow. In the hopes of keeping alive Vermont Yankee's chances of getting permission from the state legislature to operate past the expiration of its current license, Entergy has apologized to lawmakers for the two recent leaks of radioactive water. They have also replaced the site vice-president, general manager, and operations manager, blaming them (it seems) for the entire culture of lax management and maintenance. As if.

  • A non-aligned consulting group hired by the legislature has advised the legislature that, despite Entergy's assurance that high-level radioactive waste need not stay in Vermont long-term, high-level radioactive waste will most probably stay in Vermont long term. Period.

But there's good news, too! For example:

And so I, Fake-Rob Williams, the Vermont Yankee PR guy, will be single-handedly turning this whole emerging financial catastrophe/environmental disaster picture of Vermont Yankee around immediately. I will arrange for us to forever be known not as the Nuclear Power Plant that Couldn't, but as the Nuclear Power Plant that Used Less Toilet Paper and had shiny shoes, to boot. And that's great PR.

It's all in the ...


There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, 'It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all forgotten to perform routine maintenance, which doesn't bode well for the people of Vermont and its neighboring states because they are all employees of Vermont Yankee. Furthermore, regardless of their consistent inability to do a good job, VY has been given permission by the NRC to reduce the number of times we conduct tests on control rods, a key safety system. Note to self: Arrange for a large donation to a popular community organization, and inform the Reformer.

There once was a fellow McSweeny
Who spilled some gin on his—work is progressing at Vermont Yankee. Did you see that headline? "Work Progresses at Vermont Yankee." It's in the Burlington Free Press. That's a real newspaper. So we're getting some good press about the fact that we hired contractors to seal a leak through a valve gasket and to clear ice from a ventilation system on a back-up generator.
Just to be couth
He added vermouth
Then slipped his girlfriend a martini

There once was a man named J. Wayne
Whose banana was wonderfully named
When Forbes named him a top dog
He petted dear lap dog
And said, "Rover, you are one useful tool. What nasty maintenance scandals and financial disasters can we polish away together today? Who needs cash around here? The Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center again? The Chamber of Commerce?"