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!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And The Eiffel Tower is Taller than I Am

Dear God,

The newly-found tritium levels at Vermont Yankee--somewhere between 721,000 and 2.1 million picocuries per liter"--may be 100 times the Federal hazard level. That's "relatively high."

And the moon is a very big rock. Grizzly bears can be crabby when you wake them up. It's chilly on Mars.

And 150 gallons is just a drop in the bucket.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

They've Misunderestimated Me (English 101)

Dear God,

OMG, God, even the Associated Press has the story! Skeptics are accusing us of double-speak for having given "different answers about the extent of underground piping — one to a consultant hired by the state Department of Public Service, part of the administration of Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, which has generally been friendlier to Vermont Yankee, and another to a panel of experts brought in by Democratic legislative leaders, who have been more critical."

Well, if any of those skeptics or AP reporters talk to you, please just send them my way.

I'm the PR guy here, during this period of time. And I think that when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the PR decisions that were made here took place over a decade or so, before I arrived in the PR guy, during I arrived in the PR guy. (Not actual English. I know. Whatever. I'm paraphrasing our previous president. And as he kinda said, what we really don't want to happen here is what happened a few years ago in California. Remember? It was the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants.

And, yes, the fish and the human being can peacefully co-exist.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cloak and Dagger Stuff

Dear God,

Psst! Can you hear me? Sorry. I'm whispering. I don't want the NRC inspector who is here checking up on our the-public-shouldn't-be concerned-about-any-kind-of-health-consequences tritium leak to hear me.

He's trying to help us figure out how our underground pipes are leaking, given that we have no underground pipes. Or so we claimed last year to the special Oversight Panel examining Vermont Yankee's reliability.

Let me put this frankly, God. We need a little divine intervention. Not only do we have the piping to explain away, we have the fact that we claimed as recently as last week that tritium had never been found in groundwater here. Turns out, it was found at Vermont Yankee in November, and last week's tests just proved that the problem is quickly getting worse.

Tritium is not just a potential health problem. It could be an expensive clean-up problem during decommissioning, for which we're already woefully under-budgeted. According to the Green Mountain Daily, at Connecticut Yankee, decommissioning cost an additional $481 million dollars due to radioactive contamination of the soil and water from tritium and Strontium 90.

Invisible decommissioning clean-up costs may be mounting, God. Can you help me put a good spin on this?

[A rolling thunder is heard, and then a deep, booming voice.]

Nurse: Doctor, there is an invisible man in your waiting room.

Doctor: Tell him I can't see him now. Next.

[More rolling thunder.]

Thanks, Lord. Divinely inspired, if a bit loud.



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tritium Again! (with special bonus "Evacuation Safety & Sanity Tips")

Dear Lord,

Did you see that tritium is in the news again this morning? Thank You it's not my problem, though it is Entergy's problem.

The news in today's papers is about a two-day "unusual event" that started on November 2. At Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant, a problem in a generator caused Unit 2 to shut down. Consequently, the steam release valves were intentionally opened. That was appropriate; it is part of normal shutdown routine. But then the valve stuck open and remained open for 42 hours while 600,000 gallons of tritium-laced steam were released over the Hudson Valley.

As you can imagine, the people of the valley and of New York City are pretty upset. Neil Sheehan has stressed that the level of tritium in the steam was below the allowable federal level for drinking water. But what is the safe level for inhaled tritium? Sheehan hasn't said, and I bet he doesn't know.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Daily News, the Entergy officials at Indian Point, in an attempt to calm the public, said that the company "wasn't concerned about the amount of radioactivity released into the atmosphere."

Well, that's comforting.

I think, Lord, it's time for me to re-pray my January 8, 2008...


1. To beat the traffic, evacuate the day before an emergency.

2. Radiation exposure is especially harmful to children. Build up your children's immunity by programmaticly giving them x-rays beginning shortly after birth.

3. Dress your child in a haz-mat suit for Halloween, just in case that's a bad day for us.

4. Always pack your child's lunch box with holy water.

5. Ask your doctor whether cancer is always as serious as you've been led to believe.

6. Remember that, even if your children are in a school in Guilford, Vernon or Brattleboro, no force in creation can stop a good parent like you from cowboying your way through police lines to get to them once they have been cordoned away from you and proclaimed a public health risk to others.

7. Appreciate the way that evacuation puts your life problems in perspective.

8. Try not to read too much into the little details like how in heaven's name you will ever rebuild your life even if you and everyone you love survive.

9. If you actually work at the Vermont Yankee plant, every day ask yourself, "Hmmm, does this coffee taste a little too potassium iodide-y?" Lousy coffee is a morale buster. During an evacuation, a bright outlook will go a long way.

10. Remember that heart disease is actually our nation's number one killer.



Friday, January 8, 2010

Tritium Leak

Dear God,

What the heck's a "multi-disciplined team?"

"Yankee has assembled a multi-disciplined technical team," Yankee
spokesman Real-Rob Williams was quoted as saying in today's Reformer. It was in an article announcing that tritium, a radioactive isotope, has been found in a groundwater well at Vermont Yankee.

I know what a multi-disciplinary team is. But we don't need one of those. We've got Bill Irwin, Vermont’s chief of radiological health, acting as as our chief apologist. The astute application of a little government endorsement at times like these can go a long way toward mitigating a PR disaster and, who knows, maybe even an environmental one. Thanks, Bill!

You know, Lord, I had a small dog once, and I used to hit him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper whenever he disobeyed. I had to do it a lot, actually, when he was a puppy. So maybe what Real-Rob meant to say was that we have a technical team here at Vermont Yankee, that they've let some pretty scary things happen, and that even though we're claiming that there are no health risks involved in this tritium leak we're taking it seriously. We're going to discipline the team again and again until they grow up and make this plant safe, clean, and reliable.

After all, what's an ace security force good for if not for the skilled application of newspaper to nose?

Let me know if you hear anything more about the tritium leak. 'Cause a tritium leak could signify that there's a whole plume of contamination under the reactor. Concentrations of the tritium might be far higher other places than in the one well we just happened to test.

Also, please keep in close touch about the multi-disciplined team. 'Cause if members of the media start asking questions about them, we could be brought up on charges of cruelty or something.

Thanks for all your help, Lord. I've got your back, too.



Thursday, January 7, 2010

And I Made a TV Commercial, Too!

Dear God,

OMG, our television commercials! Back in December they seemed just about perfect, but now that 2010 has hit, all that I can say about them is, "What were we possibly thinking?" We featured employees making claims about the safety of the plant and the price of power. Now I realize that specifics about all of that just leave us open to attacks from the media about credibility. Our steam dryer has new cracks, we're dripping tritium into the Connecticut River, pipes carrying God knows what are leaking everywhere, the cooling tower keeps bailing on us, we forgot to monitor radiation at the fenceline, Federal regulators said that the concrete-and-steel "dry casks" that we use to store spent nuclear fuel were not tested as completely as they should have been, we keep having to evacuate our workers, and the 81 "action items" identified after a reliability assessment have been addressed but not acted on.

And the price of power? Let me just say that by offering a higher rate than the going rate we have not elicited cheers and confetti from the good people of Vermont.

My new media strategy is to stay vague. And so, just like I made that nice, pink "I Love Vemont Yankee" web site to replace our broken green "I Am Vermont Yankee" one, I've made us a kinder, fuzzier television commercial. And because some members of the media complained about everyone featured on "I Am Vermont Yankee" being homogenous, my new mush-mouthed spokesman is definitely non-mainstream (nuclear plant worker-wise). That and he works for candy.

And so now I present for your viewing pleasure a Vermont Yankee television commercial in which our spokesman says nothing, absolutely NOTHING about which people can take us to task. Really.

Is it rolling, Bob?

Aren't we adorable?



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pink is the New Green

Dear God,

Are you hoping to see the new, pink-hued "I Love Vermont Yankee" web site that replaces our broken, green "I Am Vermont Yankee" one? Then click here.



Monday, January 4, 2010

It's the Economy, Stupid

Dear God,

In 1992, Clinton campaign strategist James Carville hung a sign in campaign headquarters. It said, "The economy, stupid," and Carville hung it to remind everyone to stay on message about money. The American people, Carville knew, want desperately to achieve the American dream.

Well, it's déjà vu all over again, and this time J. Wayne Leonard, CEO of Entergy, not Bill Clinton, Big Guy of Little Rock, can show the American people how to dream big and accomplish big. That's because J. Wayne personally made $54 million in three years alone.

So what do you think about this idea, God? Just like John Nagy once taught an entire nation how to draw, J. Wayne can teach everyone to be rich! Near as I can tell, his formula hinges at least in part on the timely declaration of bankruptcy.

After Hurricane Katrina, see, Entergy New Orleans was faced with an enormous cleanup. So, at J. Wayne's prompting, the company declared bankruptcy, thereby qualifying for $200 million in disaster relief funds, roughly 9.7% of which went into J. Wayne's pocket.

It's not difficult to imagine disaster scenarios in Vermont that could further enrich our hero. Remember Enexus! Remember Fairpoint! Remember the cooling tower and the steam dryer!

Lord, whadya say J. Wayne and I make a television program? Legislators can gather at their plasma screens and watch J. Wayne as he demonstrates with charcoal (or Cayman Island bank accounts, whatever) how to create both shade and shady deals. Then, fully satisfied that allowing Vermont Yankee to operate for an additional 20 years makes sense, they can vote to enrich J. Wayne Leonard, American hero, at the expense of Vermonters everywhere.

You see, Lord, James Carville was right. It is the economy that matters. Cue happy music!



PS: Anti-nuke activists organized by Safe & Green and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance have already embarked on their walk to Montpelier. Bless their verdant little hearts. Keep your fingers crossed for snow, and maybe a little ice.