Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dental Warfare

Dear God,

Gosh. I got an email today, and the subject line was "Bomb Strontium in Baby Teeth." It linked to a article here.

By and large, I'm a cautious guy, but this idea is one I support. I mean, who wants Strontium in baby teeth? That stuff's dangerous as hell! I say bomb those baby teeth to smithereens. Bigger, healthier ones will grow in anyway. And then the back molars will come in. Bomb them, too. They hurt.



Monday, December 13, 2010

The Little Yanks are Back!

Dear God,

Two things:

  • First, Ukraine plans to open Chernobyl area to tourists in 2011. It turns out that nuclear disaster is a brand that sells, just like "made in Vermont."

  • Second, remember those cute control room mutants, The Little Yanks? They couldn't run and play like other kids, and they said a bad word: Strontium-90, which itself is a mutant. (Unlike most bad words, it has more than four letters.) I first prayed about them on May 26, 2010. Well, theyyyyyyyyyre back! Trouble is, the first time we met them, they were kind of funny, confusing "sh#t," for example, with radioactive isotopes. This time, there's not much humor, except for a few laugh lines about the NRC being trustworthy. And, hey, did you know? Uranium is natural! And the outcome of Vermont refusing to give Vermont Yankee a certificate of public good for an extra 20 years of operation "will be decided in the Federal courts!" Here's a little movie, courtesy of YouTube user RobertHargraves, who was kind enough to include an "embed" link on his YouTube page.

Gotta go, Lord. It's my turn to take the control room mutant kids outside so I can forcibly stretch their little legs and arms. And necks.



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's a Sing-Along!

Dear God,

J. Wayne Leonard is dumping his shares of Entergy! And it may have affected the overall value of the company. According to the website GuruFocus.com, "Chairman and CEO J Wayne Leonard sold 227,954 shares of ETR stock on 08/10/2010 at the average price of 79.11. J Wayne Leonard owns at least 360,683 shares after this. The price of the stock has decreased by 8.49% since. Other insiders have also decreased their positions in the company."

"The rat is fleeing a sinking ship" can't even begin to describe the epithets being hurled today at poor J. Wayne--"poor," of course, being a relative term considering that in October of 2008 Fortune Magazine estimated his five-year income at $45.84 million. And now, just imagine the windfall on the stock sale! Whew! (It's about $17 million, if you do the math.)

And you've seen my pictures of J. Wayne Leonard's house haven't you? I think he'll build another wing or something now, don't you?

People may call J. Wayne a "rat," but "rat" does not begin to describe him. Why, he's stuck by this old, leaking plant for so long, he should get a medal! People have cast aspersions on his spending style, his elitism, his oversight, his manners, his hiring practices, his honesty, and the fact that he's pillaged the state of Vermont without, apparently, ever once spending a personal dollar here. He's been lambasted for saying that nuclear power is not a good business risk for the 21st century, and saying that even while trying to get the state of Vermont to take a risk on nuclear power. But step back, Lord. It's not as though all those aspects of him are bad things. Truly, they just define the modern man, the man of the future, the captain of industry about town extraordinaire.

Why, I think it's fair to go so far as to say that J. Wayne Leonard is, if you will, the very model of a modern metrosexual.

Hit it, dudes! And everyone sing along!

Did you see Linda Rondstadt in that video clip? Hey, any father of Linda Rondstadt's is a friend of mine.



PS: Unfortunately, we can't blame the tumble in Entergy stock on Governor Elect Peter Shumlin. You see, J. Wayne's sell-off pre-dated Pete's demand of Michael Colomb, Site Vice President at Vermont Yankee, that "Entergy return its extraction wells to service and ... increase the number of wells to prevent tritiated water from entering Vermont’s precious and irreplaceable aquifers." In his letter to Colomb, Pete said that, "It appears that ENVY made the decision to arbitrarily terminate the process of extracting tritiated ground water from the Vermont Yankee site as soon as 300,000-gallons of water had been removed. The tritium concentration level of the remaining on site tritiated water after the 300,000-gallon cutoff was never provided to justify that decision." Pete also pointed out that, "The following day [after stopping extraction], Entergy detected 500,000 pCi/l of tritium near [one] well and at bedrock, ... a further indication that the aquifer may be in serious jeopardy of contamination from tritium and other radioactive isotopes." Frankly, I fail to understand Pete's concern about all of this. You remember, Lord (don't you?), that Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour has already declared our tritium cleanup to be complete.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Have You Heard the Good News?

Dear God,

Yes, Lord, in the very week that we prematurely announced our tritium cleanup to be complete,we've announced that we've found more tritium, and this time we've found it in at least one well that used to be used for drinking water.

But, in the words of the prophet Douglas Adams, "DON'T PANIC!" This week's discovery is good news--or so my colleague Larry Smith has suggested.

I won't even pretend to explain why it's good news, because in order to explain that I would have to understand Larry's logic, which, frankly, I don't. But I do know this: No one reads the Saturday papers. And that is good news.

Yet, despite Larry's proclamation of elation, I'm sensing a general uneasiness here at Vermont Yankee. We all know that, by Monday, anti-nuke activists will be leaping from nooks and crannies and jumping to wherever it is that news cameras will point.

If I may be so bold as to express a wish in the form of an exasperative prayer, I beseech you, Lord, to arrange for said nuclear activists to drink the damn "good news" water, and to drink it tonight, Friday. Mind you, I fully support Larry in his assertion that 500 thousand pico curies per liter presents "no threat to public health." And, granted, even if it's going to kill the activists, they'll still be around on Monday. Radiation poisoning doesn't always work as quickly as one would like. Still, to watch the activists drink that water would be an "unusual event" for which I would be eternally grateful.

Thanks for understanding, Lord.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour Declares Tritium Cleanup Complete

Dear God,

Just weeks after his most recent meeting with Hamid Karzai, president of one or another of those "stan" countries, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, one of the most successful imitators of senior commanders in the Taliban movement, has declared the cleanup of tritium at Vermont Yankee complete.

"You have trusted me," Mullah Mansour declared. "Now you can pay me."

The NATO plane that brought Mullah Mansour to Vernon has now helped him flee back to the hills, carrying him along with weighty bundles of Entergy shareholder cash, and leaving David O'Brien of the Department of Public Service sad that long-promised peace talks with the New England Coalition never quite happened. However, J. Wayne Leonard, CEO of Entergy, expressed his gratitude that contaminated groundwater, now removed from Vernon, would be shipped to Tennessee, where public education has been in crisis for so long that the citizenry is unusually easy to push around. Stepping away from an indoor pool party at his mansion, Mr. Leonard watched with loving eyes as Mullah Mansour's plane passed over Louisiana. "Who was that masked man?" he wondered fondly.

In the meanwhile, Arnie Gundersen tried frantically to explain to the media that the tritium problem was not, in fact solved. The extraction wells were still pumping contaminated water when they were shut down. They were not shut down because the tritium issue was "over," but rather because Entergy did not want to pay to winterize the wells. Had they paid for the wells, Gundersen explained, they could not have afforded to pay Mullah Monsour.

Only moments after Gundersen started his b*tching and moaning, a grainy, ill-shot video was received by news stations across America. An unidentified but very tall actor attached to a styrofoam dialysis machine clearly said, "We will never tire of the tritium fight. J. Wayne is great. So is God."



Friday, November 5, 2010

Meg Whitman Puts Vermont Yankee on eBay.

Dear God,

After spending $160 million of her own fortune on a losing campaign to be the governor of California, former eBay executive Meg Whitman is hard pressed for money, and has agreed to work for commission in her attempt to sell Vermont Yankee on eBay.

Of course, it's up to me to prepare the press release announcing the unconventional arrangement. I asked Ms. Whitman what the press release might best say about any potential buyer's responsibility regarding clean up of this horrible environmental mess we've created. As you know, we've underfunded the decommissioning fund by about half a billion dollars.

"Half a billion will be peanuts to the right buyer," Ms. Whitman assured me, as she paid an extra dollar to have the words "Fire Sale" bolded in the listing's title.

You know me. I'm not easily convinced by a dollar spent here or there, nor am I easily deflected in my dogged attempts to get hard answers even to the most difficult questions. Frankly, I knew what sorts of things my fellow employees would want to know. I also knew about the concerns the general public would have. So I emailed Ms. Whitman.

She only had a moment or so to spare when answering my email, what with her urgent need to search-engine-optimize the listing for terms like "everything must go" and "be the first on your block" and "state has new direction; we chose to go 'another way'." So I asked just a few quick questions. What changes did she anticipate an eBay buyer would implement at Vermont Yankee? Better safety monitoring? Less toxic runoff? More credible reporting? More reasonable shifts? Help for the employees' substance abuse problems? Would jobs be protected? For how long?

"Just get new stationary," she emailed me in return, "'cause if I learned one thing at eBay it's that image is eVerything."

At first I thought she was nuts. Which wasn't surprising. Hey, we're all feeling a little bonkers around here nowadays. Since the election it seems to me and my friends in the control room like the world is crashing around our ears. The river seems to whisper to us about the revenge of the fish. And we haven't even been to a picnic lately.

Like I said, I was just a hair flabbergasted that all Meg Whitman could think of to say to me in response to my politely-phrased, specific, and pressing questions was "image is eVerything." I can't tell you how long I stared at her email this morning, feeling increasingly disappointed and despairing.

But you know, Lord? The more I read her email, the more I think I got what she meant. Image just may be eVerything. I mean, sEriously.


fAke rOb
pR gUy
vErmont yAnkee (and maybe someday, if I'm lucky, eBay)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hey! What's happening?

Dear God,

As you might expect, we've been doing some pre-election planning at Vermont Yankee. We're trying to get out the vote for Brian Dubie. We want, on election day itself if necessary, to persuade anyone still on the fence about whether radiation poisoning and environmental toxicity are good or bad things to think of them as neutral, and then to concentrate on the happy benefits to me and my colleagues of imperiling the people of southeastern Vermont and neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

I couldn't sleep at all last night for all of the worrying I was doing about the election. How, I asked myself as I tossed and turned, could we at Vermont Yankee and Entergy best hide certain nuances from voters--like the fact that the habit of the NRC is to wait for definitive proof of a safety hazard before taking action--definitive proof being defined as an accident that's already happened? How could we get people to take their minds off their own petty concerns and feel sorry for J. Wayne Leonard, me, and the shareholders of Entergy?

Tick, tick, tick went my clock. Then, right around dawn, I had a moment of personal brilliance.

Our employees will work at the polls in pairs, standing always the prescribed distance away from the booths. They will open conversations with voters in as gentle, genuine, friendly, and optimistic way as possible, one that shows sensitivity to the shifting demographic in Vermont, and one that makes Brian Dubie and his friends seem oh so comme il faut.

Let me cut to the quick. Our employees will make some noise, attract some attention, and ask, "Hey, what's happening?"--only not precisely in those words.

See for yourself. Larry Smith and I will be working together in Vernon, and we've spent a few hours this morning practicing.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Dear God,

Sometimes I don't pray right away about big news--like, for example, news about the radioactive isotope tritium found in the well water at Vermont Yankee, or the much higher levels of tritium found in well water at Pilgrim, our sister plant in Massachusetts. When I don't pray right away, it's not because I don't care. It's because I think that the official statements issued by Entergy spokespeople have handled the problem, and divine intervention is not necessary.

For example, Pete Shumlin expressed shock and dismay at the discovery of tritium in actual well water near Vermont Yankee. But is that really news? Of course Pete is shocked and dismayed. He practically makes a habit of it. On the other hand, it is news that Brian Dubie seemed initially displeased, and it is news that Brian said that he would not support VY's re-licensing without reassurance from the Department of Health and the NRC. Indeed, at first blush that sounded very, very scary to me. Ah, but then I blushed again. And when I did I remembered that every single time that tritium has been found in water at or near VY, and any time any scary happenstance at VY has occurred, both the NRC and Bill Irwin, Vermont's top radiological officer at the Department of Health, have given us a thumbs up.

Now, remember, Bill Irwin has long been someone with whom VY has felt absolutely comfortable. You may recall that I prayed about Bill on June 21, 2010. My prayer was about the Entergy/VY efforts to keep Arnie Gundersen out of the information loop regarding the existence of buried piping. We at Entergy/VY needed to keep him out of the loop because he was deeply suspicious about the existence of buried piping, and the Vermont legislature had fully authorized him to make appropriate inquiries. And, of course, as things turned out Arnie was right. Well, in the midst of all of our feints and misunderestimating, Bill Irwin (a public official) wrote in an email to Dave McElwee (a VY engineer) that, "The comments of Mr. Gundersen [about the possibility of the existence of underground piping] are hyperbole and, in my opinion, bordering [sic] on irresponsibility."

So Bill's a guy I know we can count on. Oh! Even more reassuring to me about Bill Irwin is this from my June 21 prayer:

Bill [Irwin] may actually have considered himself very much part of the VY "team." He marked a[n]email he sent to Uldis Vanags, the state's nuclear engineer, as "For Internal Use Only!!!!". Still, he seems to have copied the email to Dave [McElwee]. Dave circulated the email to a large handful of VY executives. You gotta love those four exclamation points, God. Without the emphasis they add to the words "internal" and "only" I never would have appreciated how closely the interests of Vermont Yankee and the Douglas administration are intertwined.

So, you can see why I haven't thought it necessary to pray excessively about this crisis. If Dubie is our next governor, and if all we need are the NRC's OK and Bill Irwin's, as well, no divine intervention will be needed.

In the meanwhile, yes, Entergy's Pilgrim Plant in Massachusetts is plagued with a tritium problem, but both Entergy and the NRC seem absolutely upbeat about it. Even though the tritium levels at Pilgrim are now well above those considered safe by Federal standards, the spokesperson at Pilgrim has assured the public that the tritium poses no safety threat. And our old friend Neil Sheehan of the NRC has expressed satisfaction with the steps that Pilgrim is taking to fix the tritium leak--and he has said that regardless of the fact that the leak seems to be getting significantly worse.

So, God, while things here at Entergy/VY are progressing swimmingly, I'm kicking back and gluing myself to the TV. No, not to Glee. The plot lines of that miniseries are too complicated for the likes of me. For example, I can never really tell when people are lying. Instead, I'm watching the progress of the 33 trapped Chilean miners as an escape capsule brings them to safety one-by-one. Isn't it reassuring how a tale of corporate neglect, greed, and disregard for safety can be transformed into one of heartwarming heroism in which everyone who plays along survives, and the wives get free mascara, to boot?



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is That Little Kevin I See?

Dear God,

Torrents of a toxic sludge that has drowned four people in Hungary, burnt more than 120 (even through their clothes), and turned four lovely villages into irredeemable swamps of red mud that no one should ever touch has reached the Danube. While panicked people flee the area, the Hungarian prime minister has called for calm, and stressed that there is no radiation in the sludge. MAL Zrt, the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company responsible for the disaster, has issued a tremendously helpful advisory saying that, while the sludge contains heavy metals and is toxic if ingested (and, evidently, can burn the bejeezus out of you), it is not hazardous.

What a PR opportunity this Hungarian disaster has been for all of here at Vermont Yankee, where we try each day:

See! Just below this paragraph is evidence that at least one kindergartner from the Vernon Elementary School has followed the example set by our I Love VY employees. Five-year-old Little Kevin is in Hungary to help. I recognize him by the the protective gear that we at Vermont Yankee donated to our little neighbors across the street. Isn't that guy adorable? Doesn't he make you home proud?

And do you think maybe I should issue a press release pointing out that one advantage that Vermont Yankee has over MAL Zrt is that any environmental disaster we cause won't leave awful footprints on carpeting?

I dearly hope that the Times Argus runs these photos on its front page, where today it has a survey today asking whether people think the legislature should vote again on license renewal for Vermont Yankee. Little Kevin's mommy could vote. Twice.

You know what I always say, Lord. Vote early. Vote often.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Truth Boogies

Dear God,

I knowst. It's not August any more, or at least it's not where you and most people are. But at Vermont Yankee, we have our own timetable. For example, it's still the 1970s in terms of how we envision the world's energy future.

Though, it's true, I haven't prayed 'lo this long time. August whatever, to be exact. I'm sorry, Lord. But in my defense I've not really been remiss.

I've been studying singing.

Really! It's an amazing way to spend one's vacation, and a bit of a stretch for me to have done at my age, what with even my speaking voice beginning to sound like a cross between a very old Harry Belafonte and a very young Pee Wee Herman. But, as it turns out, I should have started my singing lessons long ago. For I've learned that, if one holds one's tongue in just the right position, one can resonate in one's nasal passages the vibrations of the vocal chords, and thereby fully support one's voice as it emerges. One ends up sounding angelic, reliable, invincible--like the very embodiment of truthfulness. Imagine how this could have come in handy over the years.

Let me demonstrate. I'll announce the August and September news that I, in my absence, missed. Your job will be to raise your hand if anything I say sounds like anything other than a bold-faced lie:

  1. The independent oversight panel opined that Vermont Yankee's corporate culture needs an overhaul and, and that VY has to begin providing reliable information to regulators and legislators.
  2. VY's decommissioning fund is still about half a billion dollars short.
  3. People are still mad at VY for lying to the oversight panel and to regulators.
  4. The NRC has slapped VY's wrists with a ruler (but, thank You, not with a new rule) for endangering its workers.
  5. Entergy has been compelled to take part in the 2013 energy capacity auction, despite the fact that it has no assurance VY will be in operation in 2013.
  6. There are rumors that Entergy wants to sell VY, reason being that the Vermont legislature might be willing to allow VY to operate for an additional 20 years if any company other than Entergy were running it.
  7. Some kook in Brattleboro has put a referendum on the ballot, and he has done so without clarifying what "eminent domain" could possibly have to do with nudity.
  8. The Global Wind Energy council predicts that, within four years, installed power capacity from wind turbines around the world will probably rival the potential generation of electricity from nuclear plants.
  9. The state of Connecticut has been awarded $40 million in a nuclear waste dispute. That's because no one can figure out what to do with the waste from the decommissioned Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant.
  10. The old ladies attacked us again.

Hmmm. I saw lots of hand-raising there, Lord. But, well, actually those statements sounded true because they were true. That's right. I didn't blow them out my nose.

Ok, but NOW I'm going to give you roughly the same news, only this time with the approved VY take on all of the news items. Which is to say that these pieces of news will come to you enhanced by my new nasal-reliant vocal technique. Again, raise your hand if anything I say sounds to you like the truth:

  1. The independent oversight panel announced that with, with adjustments in its culture, Vermont Yankee can operate safely after 2012.
  2. The combined efforts of the NRC, the DPS, and Vermont Yankee ensure that the fund remains adequate enoughish.
  3. The NRC has said that the VY license request information is accurate, though they do want VY to re-evaluate its Buried Piping Inspection Program. We would actually be more than happy to do that now that we've admitted to having buried piping.
  4. Despite the NRC's displeasure at VY's "process weaknesses" regarding worker safety, the NRC identified no issues that require VY to do anything noticeably different.
  5. Entergy is confident Vermont Yankee will be operating in 2013--so confident that VY expressed its confidence only days after several blown fuses caused an "unusual event" emergency at the plant.
  6. No comment.
  7. "Eminent domain" has nothing to do with nudity. Granted, if that kook gets what he wants we will be royally exposed and, if we have the emotional capacity, embarrassed, as well.
  8. No comment.
  9. Really no comment.
  10. No comment--but it was kinda fun wrestling them to the ground again.

I saw lots of hand raising, Lord! Good job! Yes, indeed, each and every one of them sounded like the God's truth. Hark, the herald Rob is high!



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ho Hum

Dear Lord,

Was it your divine intervention that confused Rod Blagojevich's jurors enough to render them incapable of convicting him on 23 of the 24 counts against him? If so, do you charge by the hour?

Or maybe you've already intervened on our behalf. After all,

  • The Brattleboro Reformer of August 14 reported that, "In its report to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee, submitted on July 26 and released to the public on Aug. 12, Fairewinds Associates, which is operated by Arnie and Maggie Gundersen, wrote that state agencies conspired to 'belittle the accurate analysis of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. rather than investigate the existence of underground pipes at (Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant).'" Did the masses even read that? Because if they did, I'd have though they'd have risen up in outrage and stormed either the administrative buildings in Montpelier or the nuclear power plant here in Vernon. But nada, from anyone.

  • Fairewinds Associate's entire report is now on the Joint Fiscal Committee's web site. Yet no one seems to have looked up from their beach novels long enough to read it, much less comment.

  • Scientific American published an article titled "Safety Concerns Have Delayed Approval of First U.S. Nuclear Reactor in Decades," and in it they quoted Fairewinds Associate's Arnie Gundersen. By doing so they might have significantly added to his credibility, furthering him on his path toward becoming a bonafide local hero. But, nah. People don't read Scientific American. It's too...wordy. So they checked their iPhones and applied sunscreen to their children as they frolicked in purposeful certitude about the Eden that is Vermont, even though they sunned themselves on the banks of the contaminated river.

I know you're powerful, Lord. I know you can cause frogs to fall from the sky, and that you can spread locusts across the land. So, please, be straight with me this one time. We've been unbelievably lucky of late on the PR front. Have you been pulling strings behind the curtain for us? Or is this just August?



Thursday, August 12, 2010

How Not to Write a Press Release

Dear Lord,

I got the most unfortunate email today. It was a press release from "Shut It Down," that group of old lady activists who continue to protest at our nuclear power plant.

Here is how it started: "As a plume of radioactive, tritiated water flowed toward the Connecticut River from Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant here on Tuesday, August 10, eight women blocked the gate to demand the immediate shutdown of the 38-year-old facility."

And then it went on and on and on and ON about the old ladies' arrest. What, may I ask, does the arrest of those eight women have to do with the plume of radioactive, tritiated water? Granted, the first item (the arrest), by virtue of being recent, is legit news. But the second item (the leak) is old news, and leading the press release with that information turns a newsworthy event into a real snorer. Get over the leak, ladies! Move on!

Imagine if I were to have written some of VY's recent, snappy press releases with the old ladies' puerile phrasing:

  1. As a plume of radioactive, tritiated water flowed toward the Connecticut River from Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, "the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station automatically shut down.... [But] there has been no release of radiation...."

  2. As a plume of radioactive, tritiated water flowed toward the Connecticut River from Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, "Vermont Yankee control room operators brought the 650 megawatt nuclear power plant back into service. There was a delay early Sunday morning while reconnecting to the New England power grid when operators noticed that generator readings were different than expected and disconnected from the grid...."

  3. As a plume of radioactive, tritiated water flowed toward the Connecticut River from Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, "a recently completed root cause analysis of a tritium leak at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant determined that leak was primarily caused by an earlier design deficiency and inadequate inspection of an underground area of the plant that could not be accessed."

  4. As a plume of radioactive, tritiated water flowed toward the Connecticut River from Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, "the plant [operated] at 100% power...."


  5. As a plume of radioactive, tritiated water flowed toward the Connecticut River from Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Entergy's Chairman and CEO, J. Wayne Leonard said, "This is how Entergy operates."

I would be the laughing stock of the PR world, right? Take a lesson, ladies!



Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Really Need You Tonight!

Dear God,

When you're trying not to nod off at the wheel, do you sing to yourself really loudly with the windows open—especially on the highway, but sometimes even if you're driving through a sleepy neighborhood?

I've stopped drinking coffee because of what it does to my stomach. So this morning on my way to work I couldn't quite keep my eyes opened. I get in early; most people weren't awake when I was driving in today. And so I was singing, and at the same time I was thinking about tonight's Public Service Board meeting, where …

… [t]he Public Service Board will take public testimony at a hearing tonight on whether the Vernon nuclear plant should be shut down. Several groups have submitted petitions supporting the plant's shutdown based on recent radioactive leaks discovered on Yankee's grounds.

I know I've said this before, Lord, but I'm worried. And I'm thinking that tonight it would be really great if some Vermont Yankee supporters could show up and tell everyone about how the folks at VY are all healthy, normal, careful people with a refurbished I Am Vermont Yankee website to prove it. This iteration of our website features a whole bunch of good-looking people who aren't even getting fired or indicted.

So, like I said, I was driving to work early. I was probably too sleepy to be at the wheel. And I opened my windows wide and I sang my favorite song from the 1980s. Really, it's our plant's theme song. Do you know "Total Eclipse of the Heart?"

Turn around, Bright Eyes. Every now and then I fall apart.

Just let that line sink in, Lord. We do at Vermont Yankee. Over the past several years that song has become our company song. When we sing it in the cafeteria it's as though, our voices merged in joy, we have become the spirit of the plant.

Anyway, I delivered that line a couple of long, loud times--maybe even more than that because it felt so damn good to emote. And then I saw lights coming on in the houses around me. So I sang even more loudly. Hey, people might have been annoyed at being awakened, but I felt like the town crier, delivering an essential message to every one of our supporters in the area. Or every two. All seventeen. Whatever.

And here it is, God. I'll sing it to you. It's beautiful, and it means so much to us. It's not just the line about falling apart that's significant. There are also lines about "making it right," "taking it to the end of the line," always "being in the dark," and "living in a powder keg and giving off sparks."

But God? Before I start singing, just let me say that I really do need you tonight, at 7pm at BUHS. Bring friends.

I'll start off plaintively, though not in the legal sense. And as I sing, please imagine the Vermont Yankee employees that you see at the refurbished I Am Vermont Yankee website holding hands, swaying to the music, and lifting their voices to the heavens.

…And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

Here I'm going to get really loud.

I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Now I'll soften, because this is the part of the song that makes all of us at VY weep.

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart.



Monday, June 28, 2010

Newton Says...

Dear God,

What goes down must come up. And then go down. Whatevsies.

Just a blink of an eye ago our stock price dropped. Today, despite the fact that trading volume for Entergy was slightly lower than normal, there was an unusual volume (about six times normal) of call contracts traded. That and we had an unusually low put/call ratio. Which, according to Market Intellisearch, indicates that "[Entergy] stock is expected to make a move."

In what direction I can't say, because I don't know what CEO J. Wayne Leonard has planned. Maybe this has something to do with Vermont lawmakers calling for phenomenally expensive repairs at Vermont Yankee.

But maybe it has to do with doubts about the long-term viability of cooling our plant with Connecticut River water. Did you see the New York Times article noting that the planet is drying up faster than the global warming folks had predicted, and that water scarcity recently forced the temporary closing of nuclear power plants in Australia, France, Germany, Romania and Spain?

There's no indication in today's weird put and call numbers about what's up or why. All I know for sure is that CEO J. Wayne Leonard has already admitted that nuclear power is not a good business risk for the 21st century.

But there is good news in all of this. Finally I have a bit of intelligence about Entergy that Arnie Gundersen didn't beat me to. Take that, Arnie! And your little dog, too!



Monday, June 21, 2010

The Devil Is in the Details

Dear God,

Please consider two related news items:

I like these two news items because, when considered together, they reveal how easily the public can be misled by details. Let's do some math together so I can show you what I mean. If the oil spill were really 100 times larger than BP told Congress, wouldn't that mean that 500 of the world's 7 turtle species would be threatened by the oil spill? Well, no, 'cause that's impossible! Such a statement doesn't even make sense! But the average Joe might not appreciate that right away. Reading those two headlines, Average Joe might get outrageously mad at BP, unnecessarily.

My point, you see, is that paying undue attention to details in headlines can exponentially increase confusion.

Playing down the details is therefore a large part of what I do at Entergy Vermont Yankee. It's a large part of what our engineers do, too. For example, according to a "report" by our lawyers, Dave McElwee tried hard to protect Arnie Gundersen from certain details about underground piping. And now he's catching heat for that! But think about it carefully, God. Persistently, insistently, and always acting in official capacity on behalf of the state legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee, Arnie had been asking, "Is there underground piping that carries radioactivity at VY?" Eventually Dave answered in the negative. Why? Not because he wanted to mislead, but because the details of the correct answer (affirmative) would only have confused Arnie--about whether he had the right to ask that specific question. Arnie believed that he did. Dave, apparently, fervently hoped that Arnie did not.

If Dave had intentionally given the wrong answer 100 times more frequently to Arnie than he did, would he have been 100 times more guilty of intentionally misleading Arnie? Let's do the math.

  • Dave obfuscated the truth. Mathematically speaking, though, the sincerity of Dave's hope that Arnie wasn't entitled to ask about the truth rendered "0" the measure to which Dave was guilty of intentionally misleading.

  • What's 100 times 0? 0.

  • Is 0 > 0? Of course not. Not ever.

  • Ipso facto, even if Dave had intentionally given the wrong answer 100 times more frequently than he did, he would not have been guilty of intentionally misleading.

But don't take my word for it, God. Read any math text book for the axiom about multiplying numbers by 0. And read the Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP "Report of Investigation: Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee", pages 105-113, for an incredible blow-by-blow description of how:

  • Arnie doggedly and repeatedly asked a simple question about piping.

  • Officials at Vermont Yankee were aghast at having to provide Arnie, an official representative of the state of Vermont, with information.

  • There was at least one official of the state of Vermont with whom officials at Vermont Yankee felt considerably more comfortable. It was Bill Irwin, Vermont's top radiological officer. He seemed so damn sympathetic to Vermont Yankee's desire to keep Arnie out of the information loop. Bill even wrote in an email to Dave that, "The comments of Mr. Gundersen [about the possibility of the existence of underground piping] are hyperbole and, in my opinion, bordering [sic] on irresponsibility."

  • Bill may actually have considered himself very much part of the VY "team." He marked a nearly identical email he sent to Uldis Vanags, the state's nuclear engineer, as "For Internal Use Only!!!!". Still, he seems to have copied the email to Dave. Dave circulated the email to a large handful of VY executives. You gotta love those four exclamation points, God. Without the emphasis they add to the words "internal" and "only" I never would have appreciated how closely the interests of Vermont Yankee and the Douglas administration are intertwined.

  • Apparently a whole lot of conversations happened at VY among top engineers and executives about underground piping. Upon questioning, however, none of the engineers and executives could remember very many details of those conversations. This is probably a good thing because, as I've noted above, details can confuse.

The "report" of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP is priceless, Lord, especially that 8-page section, 105-113. Those pages make it as undeniable as the seven mysteries of the Church that McElwee didn't intentionally mislead. Rather, he intentionally conveyed information that wasn't the truth and represented it as the full truth.

If this all seems like splitting hairs, Lord, maybe some more math will help you keep your perspective. The associative law of mathematics states that in repeated multiplication or addition, grouping does not matter. The associative law of how business is done in Vermont evidently states that repeated groupings between state employees and corporate employees does not matter.

Speaking of which, Lord, Bill Irwin asked me to tell you "Hey!"



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

There Goes the Neighborhool

Dear God,

BP has agreed to suspend paying a dividend and to set up a $20 billion fund for oil spill claims.

It's like the levy breaking on Lake Pontchartrain. Woosh. Things will never again be quite the same.

If BP can fold to pressure in this way, how will FirstEnergy fare? In Toledo, its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant (which once almost blew its lid) has sprouted cracks and flaws in as many as 16 critical parts. Will FirstEnergy post enough money to compensate Toledo and even Cleveland for the loss of all business and, indeed, people if something awful were to happen?

God, I hope not.

Because if they do, what will happen to us? Shay Totten has called us out for our Leak of the Week club. He has also pointed out that we tend to wait until late on a Friday to announce the flavor of our latest leak. This revelation may lead to an unnerving increase in the purchase of Saturday papers … or to a demand that Vermont Yankee pony up for the shortfall in its decommissioning fund.

Add our recent scram, and our admission that Strontium-90 was in the soil all along. This has been the kind of month that leads a PR guy to drink. It's also led our company's CEO to say that the nuclear businesses is not a good business risk.

There goes the neighborhood. FOR SALE notices will be going up first thing you know. Rats will start leaving this sinking ship. Signs of change are everywhere. Our IAmVY.com site is gone. And remember Curt Hébert's video recital of Rudyard Kipling's "IF"?


Someone took it down from YouTube. Someone even took Curt Hébert "down," and he was supposed to fix everything for Entergy up here after, you know, they took down Jay Thayer.

Lord, Lord, Lord have mercy, for (apparently) we know not what we do.



Friday, May 28, 2010


Dear Lord,

I don't know how you do it! I just want to let you know that not only do I adore and worship you, I admire your PR abilities.

The fish in the Connecticut River are poisoned with Strontium-90. The Associated Press today ran a story about yesterday's unplanned outage. Lord knows what they'll run tomorrow, because today we got caught harboring sinkholes near where the leaks of radioactive isotopes occurred. We've had to abandon our plans for Enexus, and we're fighting for our lives with the Vermont legislature. But look at this: No one cares anymore!

Click the graph to enlarge it.

Click the graph to enlarge it.

According to Google's Insights for Search feature, interest in Vermont Yankee peaked in the third quarter of 2009 when these were the news stories:

But this week, no one seems to care about us. Interest in Vermont Yankee is tanking! And as we say in the PR business…. Actually, I don't remember what we say in the PR business.

But thank you, Lord. This apathy is truly miraculous. And don't you just love Google?

See my Google movie!



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meet the Little Yanks!

Dear God,

Who says we're not taking the discovery of Strontium-90 in fish in the Connecticut River seriously? Even the youngest among us are concerned. Gosh, those mutants are cute and sensitive, and with just the right amount of environmental concern, to boot. Though they do worry too much.



Friday, May 21, 2010

Who Would Elvis Costello Side With?

Dear God,

Oh, I just don't know where to begin.

  1. The lab analyzing the damage of the oil spill has a huge contract with BP.

  2. People are saying that the NRC, long accused of being a lapdog to the nuclear power industry, let Entergy Vermont Yankee off too easily when they found no violations regarding our epic tritium leak.

Now, really. The fuss people are making about these things! It's reminds me of the hoo-hah about the independent investigation that concluded that Entergy Vermont Yankee did not intentionally mislead investigators and state regulators concerning buried piping. The investigation turned out to have been conducted by our own lawyers, a discovery that raised questions about independence. Well, who do people expect us to hire to check us out quickly if not a firm that knows us well?

And who do BP critics expect them to hire to get their tests done if not a crew who comes to their Christmas parties?

And c'mon, God. Can't you help people see that unprecedented disasters are rare by definition, and therefore not often quickly followed by similar disasters? Everyone should relax and let the entire nuclear industry do its job of providing power that is too cheap to meter honestly. We're not going to have another tritium leak, and neither is anyone in the industry now that awareness has been heightened. And the oil industry is unlikely to have another catastrophic oil leak.

It's not like we're driving hit and run. We learn from our accidents. They happen.



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Safe, Clean, and Reliable

Dear God,

"Now is the time for clean energy, Mr. President." Robert Redford just said that, and he said it, like, in response to a photo of some baby sea turtle or something smothered in oil down in Louisiana. It's all these disgusting photos on the Huffington Post that have famous actors singing the praises of wind, solar, and biomass power.

But what about clean nuclear power? If we had a nuclear accident the scale of the BP oil disaster, our wildlife photos wouldn't be nearly as heartbreaking as these photos coming up from the Gulf Coast. There's nothing muddy about cases of radiation overdose. Look here at what Wikipedia says:

A few symptom-free days may pass between the appearance of the initial symptoms and the onset of symptoms of more severe illness associated with higher doses of radiation. Nausea and vomiting generally occur within 24–48 hours after exposure to mild (1–2 Gy) doses of radiation. Headache, fatigue, and weakness are also seen with mild exposure. Moderate (2–3.5 Gy of radiation) exposure is associated with nausea and vomiting beginning within 12–24 hours after exposure. In addition to the symptoms of mild exposure, fever, hair loss, infections, bloody vomit and stools, and poor wound healing are seen with moderate exposure. Nausea and vomiting occur in less than 1 hour after exposure to severe (3.5–5.5 Gy) doses of radiation, followed by diarrhea and high fever in addition to the symptoms of lower levels of exposure. Very severe (5.5–8 Gy of radiation) exposure is followed by the onset of nausea and vomiting in less than 30 minutes followed by the appearance of dizziness, disorientation, and low blood pressure in addition to the symptoms of lower levels of exposure. Severe exposure is fatal about 50% of the time.

So, wow! Up to 50% of our wildlife could survive an event. But that turtle fouled by BP? He could easily be a goner. And, with radiation sickness the deaths are clean, if you can stand a little vomit and diarrhea. If you can't, no worries. Photographers don't win Cute But Sad Picture awards for snaps of puking porcupines, so they won't take the shots in the first place. They couldn't come within a 100 miles of a photo opportunity, anyway, without risking their lives.

So the good news is that there will never be pictures from Vermont to match those we're currently seeing from the Gulf Coast. The bad news is that there's been a lot of talk in Vermont lately about how the cozy relationship between federal regulators and the oil industry created just the right environment for something disastrous like the BP oil spill to happen. The implication is that we have similar regulatory shenanigans going on up here between the NRC and Entergy Vermont Yankee. Well, I say, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

For example, you! Mr. Robert Redford! Your good looks and suave manner have made you a rich man, and have probably gotten you into more than a few beds. Do you really expect us to believe that you've never been in bed with a federal regulator? Given how easy that is to do, I doubt it highly, sir.

God, right now I'm seeing this BP oil spill as a potential plus for nuclear power, given that our post-disaster photos would be so much cleaner than those from BP, and given that the call for clean energy is arising in the land. Every cloud has a silver lining, God. Every last cloud.

Thank you for clouds, Lord. Oh, and thanks for all that silver, too.



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trending Topics

Dear God,

You know, with millions and even billions of dollars at its disposal, Entergy can bring some incredible technology to play supplying Vermont and the power grid with electricity, all while protecting the people of Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire from nuclear nightmare. Our resources and how we spend them are just two of the reasons I'm so proud to work here.

A third reason, though, is that, even though we're rolling in the big bucks, we know the value of a dime. And so rather than spend on a firewalled communication system, we here in the PR department follow each other on Twitter.

#samcollinsisournrcadministratorinchargeofenforcing safety

Those, God, are our trending topics. And Twitter, God, is God's gift to us. Except that sometimesthehabitofthinkingintermsoftendingtopicsishardtobreak. Asaremanybadhabitslyingbeingoneofthebigones.



Sunday, April 18, 2010

Metal Fatigue and Compassion Fatigue

Dear God,

You know, I just hate to let a good prayer go to waste. And I've written some good prayers about the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, which seems to have a safety and performance record second only to that of Vermont Yankee in terms of the trouble it presents its PR people.

Well, Lordy, Lordy. New safety problems have just arisen at Davis-Besse, and they're far worse than expected. I know that, in solidarity with PR guys throughout the nuclear power industry, I should be praying on behalf of Davis-Besse.

But I've already prayed about that plant--6 times since November of 2007!

  • Here (including a cute picture of a big-eyed cat, if you like that sort of thing).

  • Here (including a picture of Prince, who, like Vermont Yankee and Davis-Besse, neglects to put time and money into maintenance).

  • Here (including the awful possibility that people are getting sent to jail over their Polish accents).

  • Here. (It's a quiz!)

  • Here. (If you like "I Love Lucy", this one's for you.)

  • Here. (Well, here is where I actually explain that, in the late winter of 2002, the Davis-Besse plant was discovered to have 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 2500 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. Toledo is only 21 miles away from the plant.)

Anyway, we've had some of the same problems as Davis-Besse--tritium leaks, for example. But now it seems that as many as 16 critical parts in the Davis-Besse reactor lid are cracked or flawed, and engineers expect to find more problems in the coming weeks. That's huge! Still, with all the trouble we've been having here in Vermont, I just can't get it up for that plant one more time. And really, what can one expect with an aging reactor, anyway? So would it be sacrilegious of me to ask you to consider all of those previous prayers to be playing on "repeat" tonight? Huh, Lord? Please?



Monday, April 5, 2010

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Dear God,

Entergy announced this morning that "that effective immediately it plans to unwind the business infrastructure associated with the proposed separate non-utility nuclear generation and nuclear services companies while it evaluates and works to preserve its legal rights."

Whoa. Big news. If only I could figure out what that means.

It has something to do with our intention to "unwind the internal organizations created for Enexus Energy Corporation and EquaGen LLC to eliminate dis-synergies."

Eww. Dis-synergies. Kill them before they multiply.

Anyway, gossip around here has it that Enexus is dead. New York State didn't like it, and the Vermont legislature killed a measure to support Vermont Yankee in a license extension. So there's a pause in the PR battle. For me, today is the day that the earth stood still.

"Klaatu barada nikto," is what I have to say about that.

I'm going home. Maybe I'll take a stress pill and lie down. Then tomorrow when I come back, I'll join my colleagues in "moving forward on the business side to create and capture value unrealized today." Whatever.



Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yes We Can!

Dear God,

On Friday April 2, 2010, the Brattleboro Reformer boldly proclaimed in headline, VY Staffers Absolved in Wrongdoing.

And so, God, I say unto you: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, this week is their answer. An independent investigation led by our long-time legal counsel has concluded that we did not intentionally mislead investigators and state regulators concerning our buried piping. We are innocent and pure of heart.

And that's the answer.

This week held the same answer (just ask her lawyer) for Marsha Ward, 27, of Brattleboro, who was arrested April 2 for causing a disturbance at Hannaford. She was cited to appear in Windham District Court at a later date to face the charge.

This week held the same answer (just ask her laywer) for Lola M. Dodge, 33, of Brattleboro, who was charged April 3 for trespassing at her boyfriend's house. She had previously received a written warning for doing precisely the same thing. Dodge will appear in Windham District Court on May 1 to face the charge.

This week held the same answer (just ask his lawyer) for Robert J. Williams, 72, of Bellows Falls, who was arrested March April 1 for the possession and cultivation of marijuana. Police executed a search warrant at his apartment on Canal Street, where they found 19 marijuana plants along with grow lights and potting soil.

This week held the same answer (just ask her lawyer) for Elissa P. Brooks, 34, of Putney, who was arrested March 30 for DUI after police stopped her vehicle for weaving and driving on the sidewalk. Upon further investigation, police found Brooks' dead great aunt riding shotgun.

1984 held the same answer for Union Carbide, whose leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madya Pradesh, India, killed thousands on the spot and poisoned as many as 500,000 others. Just ask Union Carbides' lawyers.

2000 held the same answer for Firestone, whose exploding 15" tires caused more than 250 deaths and 3000 injuries. Just ask Firestone's lawyers.

1989 held the same answer for the captain of the Exxon Valdez, and for Exxon itself. Just ask those lawyers.

It is the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who send a message to the world that we can get away with anything, anything, because we are big. We are great. And some of us are rich.

Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.



Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Plumbing We Will Go

Dear God,

While Attorney General Williams Sorrel is looking into the possibility of criminal charges being pressed against Entergy personnel who testified under oath that Entergy has no buried pipes, I'm still working to help the public understand the subtle difference between "buried" and "underground" as those terms relate to pipes.

Meanwhile, we're doing another heck of a job with our new Cesium 137 problem.



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Destroying the Village in Order to Save the Village

Dear God,

I should be getting combat pay.

  • We have come into Vermont and trashed the place, and it's not our place.

  • We have sworn that there were no underground pipes, when the underground pipes were leaking tritium and other isotopes.

  • We have promised transparency, while asking our attorneys to block the release of information central to our transparency claim.

  • We have called our attempt to block the release of information an attempt to make the truth more widely available. "The purpose of the motion was not to conceal information, but to make it public," Larry Smith, my homie, has said.

Hey, God. Here's something fun:

Q: What do you call a PR guy who comes up with logic like Larry's? Or a VY executive who doesn't know that there are underground pipes containing radioactivity?

A: A radioactive isodope.



Friday, March 26, 2010

A Heck of a Job

Dear God,

My head throbs. My heart aches.

We are trying to build trust with Vermonters outraged by the lack of "nuance" in our communications with the Public Service Board and certain oversight whatevers about underground pipes. "Now is the time to rebuild the confidence Vermonters have in Entergy," we said to the assembled media at a press conference we called on Thursday morning.

We have [quoting from our own press release of 10 am March 25] "embarked on a six-point, fleet-wide initiative to become an industry leader in tritium leak prevention, detection, and mitigation. The six-point initiative includes benchmarking industry best practices, prioritizing structures, systems and components, improved inspection techniques, and improved strategies for prevention, monitoring and mitigation of leakage." Wow, Lord. Leaders! Wow.

I had high hopes of this all turning out to be a plus for Entergy Vermont Yankee. “This team has proven that a difficult problem can be solved with the right combination of expertise, experience and willingness to work day and night to see the project through to successful completion,” our press release quoted Entergy Site Vice President Mike Colomb as saying in gratitude to the investigation team "for the dedicated, careful, and thorough approach it took in investigating, identifying and stopping the tritium leak." Yes! The music swells! The crowd surges forward, tears of relief and happiness running down once-concerned citizens' adorable faces!

But then, Mark Savoff, Entergy’s executive vice president for operations, said to reporters that, with regard to tritium, we did a heck of a job.


Do you remember, Lord, what happened the last time someone did a heck of a job?

How can we expect the people of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts to trust us to run an aging nuclear power plant when we can't even run a PR campaign?



Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Fight is Far From Over

Dear God,


You think that the Vermont Senate's expression of disgust with our corporate behavior means that you've spoken, and that's the end of things, and that it would be "primo" for the people of the towns and states near Vermont Yankee to "forgive" the likes of me?

What have you been smokin'? The fight is far from over.

In anticipation of next year's legislative fight, we've gotten our lawyers to do an "independent, outside investigation" concluding that we NEVER intended to lie to regulators or investigators about the existence of underground pipes.

And as Ray Shadis points out, our lawyers are powerful. Why, Shay Totten reports that Ray calls them the consiglieri to the nuclear mafia!

And you should already know how close the nuclear industry worldwide and the mafia are, given that I've already prayed about the mafia handily disposing of 30 ships containing nuclear waste.

Ray has got his head up his comb-over. The people of the illustrious firm of Morgan, Lewis, and Bockous show no signs whatsoever of being mafiosa (or of being independent, for that matter). As Shay reports,
[I]n 2008, the firm represented Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to create a disposal solution for high-level radioactive waste. It also represented AmerGen, the company that tried to buy VY before Entergy.
Hey, Morgan, Lewis, and Bockous are even representing our Entergy sister plant, the "Indian Point nuclear reactor, in its relicensing proposal before the NRC"!

Look, God, I thought we had a relationship. I thought you cherished me. Respected me. That we had an understanding. And then you dare to confuse me with some guy named "Primo".

Oh, forget I ever said I loved you!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Vote Is In






Friday, February 19, 2010

Oh, That's Where I Parked My Car!

Dear God,

Well, I had planned not to pray here until after the vote, seeing as how tension is high and no one is laughing at much. But darn, God, something has come up that I thought I should confide to you.

I know I've alluded in my prayers to gambling problems among the staff at Vermont Yankee. For example, in a prayer of January 8, 2009 I wrote:

Miss Fake-Rob's Guide to Excrutiatingly Correct
Nuclear Power Plant Behavior
in Relation to Our Employee Gambling-Slash-Working Way Too Much Overtime Problem


My husband works at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont. He tells me that gambling problems are rife among employees at the plant and that the pervasiveness of the gambling culture is endangering safety. Employees who have stifled their feelings about routinely risking the lives of their friends and families go on desperation-fueled gambling binges, lose big, and then need to work double shifts to cover their losses. The result: scheduling is whacky and risky. People are working in geyser-like bursts, and as a result some are in danger of being asleep at the wheel. What does etiquette demand that I do with the information my husband has given me about the culture at a facility that can reasonably be said to hold our fate in its hands?


Miss Fake-Rob is sympathetic with your concerns about going up in flames and all of that. But you are a fuddy duddy. I wish you a boring life, and I hope your husband leaves you soon.

Have I also mentioned to you our drinking problems? Well, it seems that I've got one, anyway. 'Cause I recently went with my friends down to Atlantic City on a drinking and gambling binge, and when I came back I couldn't remember where I parked my car.

Guess what? Apparently, I parked my Cobalt in standing water in the advanced off-gas piping tunnel. Silly of me. And funny that Chevrolet would name one of its coupes after an element that the CDC says can be very dangerous to health.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thinking of You

Dear God,

Can you hear my thoughts? I have been praying privately, not here. Matters have become critical; laughter is no longer fun. So much depends on the outcome of Wednesday's legislative vote.

Please keep your eye on the ball.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Was Vermont Yankee

Dear God,

Click the image to see it larger.

Someone took down the I Am VY site! So I had to improvise.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Iceman Cometh

Dear God,

Do you in your all remembering-ness remember the Eugene O'Neil play "The Iceman Cometh"? A colorful assortment of impractical, deluded men and women hang out in Harry Hope's bar, bolstering themselves with booze and "pipe dreams"—ideas of the honest folk they will become, not today, but someday. Tomorrow. Meanwhile, in the more immediate future, they're looking forward to the loads of fun they'll have "once Hickey gets here." Hickey is a traveling salesman. He sells ice. He always buys drinks. He'll come any day now. Any minute. Maybe that's him.

And then Hickey comes, but he's not the loveable drunk he's always been. He's sobered up, and with him he brings a message about facing up to the truth. He tells his truth. A few years back, he murdered his wife. But, as he explains, he did it out of love for her. Apparently, his whore-mongering had always driven her to tears, so, with noblesse oblige, he'd relieved her of her misery. Or that was his story, anyway. As the play progresses it turns out that even that story is a lie. He'd killed her because she'd cheated on him, too. No nobility to be found, not anywhere, in what Hickey has done. As he reveals his story, other characters reveal theirs.

They're all poseurs.

Ok, so there we've got a story about people doing harm to others by enmeshing themselves in fantasy rather than acknowledging their motivations and their actions. And when they come clean, there's no real cleanliness to it. That's us, right God? Lies on top of lies on top of lies. Then there's the "pipe dream" analogy that could be drawn between O'Neil's play and the last few weeks at Vermont Yankee. But don't make me say more about that. It's all so painful. Maybe I can pray about it someday. Tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow. Anyway, I am sorry we mis-communicated about those pipes. Won't happen again.

Lord, I've become weepy and unnerved. Things are unraveling here. Our fantasies are being pierced, and our hopes are only confusing us now. And guess what? The most awful thing has happened.

The iceman cometh.

Really. A guy delivered ice, and he didn't get stopped at the checkpoint.

We must kill the fantasy of tomorrow and face the realities of today. So said Eugene O'Neil. So say the activists. So say the media. So say Governor Douglas and David O'Brien. So say the legislators, even Paul Hodes from New Hampshire. So says my conscience.

But my conscience I can quiet. Always have.

Hey, Lord, this all reminds me of a good joke:

Husband says to his wife, "Honey, has the iceman come yet?"

Wife says, "No, dear, but he's breathing hard."



Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Meek Won't Inherit the Earth

Dear God,

"Yours is the earth," says a video narrated by Curt L. Hébert Jr., executive vice president for external affairs at Entergy. The video is his gift to people of the energy industry. So, apparently, is the earth. (He's actually just reciting Rudyard Kipling's "If," but in the context of the debate about safety at Vermont Yankee, "If" has acquired a heckuva lot of unanticipated depth.)

Hébert has been asked by Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard to head a team of company senior staff handling Vermont Yankee matters.

Pleaes don't take my word for it about "If"'s new depth, God, or about what the video reveals about Carl Hébert. Follow the link. I'd put the whole video right here but I can't; on YouTube this particular video has embedding disabled.

In Carl We Trust. Wow.



UPDATE: In his Vermont Daily Briefing, Philip Baruth has also commented on Carl Hébert's rendition of "If." Oh! So did VT Digger.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Petey Sweety's Prayer

Dear God,

I haven't prayed in a while. I hope you'll understand that I've been busy putting out fires (though not of the transformer variety). And I trust you've not been left lonely, what with all the prayers you are surely getting from Entergy officials who attended various hearings, conferences, and press conferences in Montpelier and Washington this week. January 27, actually, seems to have been the apocalyptic of day for us. On that day:

  • At the invitation of Rep. Tony Klein, Lorraine Rekmans testified in Montpelier to the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees about the health and environmental devastation caused by uranium mining in her community. Rekmans is from the Elliot Lake region of Ontario, part of the Lake Huron watershed. Uranium from that area was used to fuel Vermont Yankee until 1996, when the mines closed. Rekmans said that ten lakes in her area are used "as cesspools for tailing waste." And she didn't seem to be exaggerating. I tooled around a bit on the Internet and found a website operated by the Southwest Research and Information Center's Mining Program. It included recommendations made regarding the Elliot Lake Tailings Management Areas. And get this, God. It said:

    The Elliot Lake Tailings Management Areas are among the largest uranium production waste sites in the world, surpassed in size only by sites in Southern Africa and Eastern Germany. The sites contain thousands of tons of hazardous radionuclides and heavy metals simply as a result of their sheer bulk, materials which present potential human health and ecological risk for hundreds to thousands of years, beyond the less than fifty year life of the production phase of the operations. While the radioactive material content of the TMAs is well recognized, the immense volume of heavy metals is less well understood. The Denison TMAs contain 15,000 - 30,000 tons of lead (assuming 250-500 ppm lead in the tailings in Denison EIS Table 3.1.17 and 60 tons for each one part per million for a 60,000,000 ton volume such as the Denison TMAs), 3000 tons of cobalt (at 50 ppm from Table 3.1.17), as well as 1500 tons of nickel, and more than 600 tons of chromium among other hazardous and radioactive constituents including 15,000 - 30,000 tons of thorium....

    Lordy, Lordy! Try to say all that three times fast while wearing a t-shirt that says "Safe, Clean, and Reliable."

  • Also testifying before the Senate and House Natural Resource Committees, Kevin Kamps of the watchdog organization Beyond Nuclear warned that it is likely that Vermont Yankee's leaking radionuclides will drastically ramp up decommissioning costs.

  • Meanwhile, also in Montpelier, the Public Service Board reamed out Entergy for what it perceived as a pattern of deception. This is the very same PSB that, only two shakes of a lamb's tail in the past, seemed very much in favor of Vermont Yankee's relicensure. The Rutland Herald reported that it appeared to James Volz, the Douglas-appointed chairman of the PSB, "that Entergy had given not just false sworn testimony to the board, but also to the Public Service Department, to the state's contractor, Nuclear Safety Associates, the state's Public Oversight Panel, the Legislature and the public." The PSB has re-opened its inquiry into the benefit if any that Vermont Yankee presents to Vermonters.

  • And there's another "meanwhile" that my superiors at Entergy were praying about. Also in Montpelier, Arnie and Maggie Gundersen of Fairewind Associates in Burlington were in the midst of laying out to legislators in astonishing detail just what that pattern of deception had been when, apparently, they began to lose their audience. It wasn't that the Entergy officials and lawyers and legislators were uninterested in the Gundersen's well-documented testimony. It was that…

  • The Governor had called an impromptu press conference in which he blasted Entergy and Vermont Yankee and asked for a halt in the process of relicensing Vermont Yankee. He gave a whole list of impressive reasons why, but I won't bore you with them here. You in your all-readingness read the papers. Though I must say that I, for one, wonder whether a post-NRC-meeting phone call from Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, or Representative Welch precipitated Governor Douglas's hasty and apparently butt-covering announcement.

Well, after the Governor's announcement, Entergy Vermont Yankee officials from Montpelier to Vernon ran scurrying off to light votive candles and visit their confessors, and a few legislators did, too. Somehow the Gundersens still received an invitation to complete their testimony another time. So, as you can see, Lord, I've had good reason to believe that the artery that normally carries my prayers to you directly from Vermont Yankee was clogged this week with the prayers of my company superiors as well as those of certain denizens of Montpelier and Washington. In the meanwhile, I do want to make one remedial offering for having been so lacking in devotion. It's a prayer, but it's not actually by me, and I'm not even sure whether it's to you. It's by Petey Sweety at Green Mountain Daily. I'll just say the first few stanzas here, and then hope you will follow the link.

Entergy the Person Says

Please let us do our work in Peace
there is nothing to be alarmed about
we're making some technical adjustments

everything will be fine in a half-life
we're a human being here for God's sake
the Supreme Court just said so

a person like us has problems and feelings too
how would you like it if everybody attacked you?...

I'm sure you can see why I like this prayer, God. It strikes just the right tone. Please, read the rest of Petey Sweety's prayer here at Green Mountain Daily.



PS: Woops! WCAX is reporting mucho bad news on the tritium front!