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 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.