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.