But it could be. My shorthand could be the cause of miscommunication.
I think miscommunication occurred in the discussion of pipes, underground pipes and buried pipes. I have used some testimony to illustrate this.
On January 27, Arnie Gunderson testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, which entered his testimony into the public record. The Times Argus expanded on his testimony in a timeline published recently. To describe the confusion of words, I quote from Gundersen below. I also want to thank Mr. Gundersen for providing Howard Shaffer (and myself) with an electronic copy of his testimony. I have added emphasis to show the difficulties of word use.
Act 189 requires that the Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel evaluate: “An underground piping system that carries radionuclides."
According to Gundersen, the state Nuclear Engineer, William Sherman, responds to the panel on October 19, 2008: “…the Panel is informed there are no underground piping systems carrying radioactivity, the Panel designates the Service Water System, which has buried piping, to be evaluated.”
On December 10, the Nuclear Engineer clarifies the statement above after speaking to David McElwee at Entergy. Sherman addresses the panel again, and his clarification includes the following terms: underground radioactive piping... the line was abandoned and the current drain is no longer buried piping...there was no buried radioactive piping.
The Oversight Panel accepted this statement and issued a report on December 22 which contains the statement that: "However, there are no underground piping systems carrying radionuclides at ENVY"
On May 20,2009, Jay Thayer of Entergy was asked about piping as part of testimony before the Public Service Board. He answered:
I can do some research on that and get back to you, but I don't believe there are active piping systems underground containing contaminated fluids today.
Thayer did not get back to the panel with an answer. This had consequences. On February 2, according the Entergy Fourth Quarter Earning Call Transcript, Wayne Leonard, Chairman and CEO of Entergy stated:
In May 2009, an Entergy executives testified in a hearing on the state's report that he didn't think we had any such pipes but he would get back to them. He did not get back to them. He has issued a public apology and made clear he failed to provide full and complete information he either on the witness stand or by failing to get back to them.
He has been permanently relieved of his duties in Vermont and placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the full investigation.
Back to our discussion of word use. In many of the quote above, underground and buried and piping carrying radionuclides and piping containing radioactivity are used almost interchangeably. In many cases, that would not matter. However, John Wheeler, a nuclear engineer and blogger, says that underground and buried do not mean the same thing to engineers. John states:
.... the phrases “Buried piping” and “underground piping” do NOT mean the same thing. To an engineer the term “buried” piping refers to piping that is buried underground in direct contact with the soil. Underground piping means the piping is below grade and could be located in a vault or concrete trench.
Arnie Gundersen apparently does not agree with these definitions of engineering terms. According to the Rutland Herald, he thinks these distinctions are merely semantics.
Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and a member of the Public Oversight Panel, as well as a consultant to the Vermont Legislature, said Entergy was using semantics.
"ENVY is saying that if you die and you are put directly in the ground with dirt on top of you, you are buried. But if you die and are put in a casket, you are not buried, but you are 'underground,'" Gundersen said.
As I look at the history here, I see many opportunities for miscommunication. Underground and buried...what did these terms mean to the various players? Was Entergy asked about underground pipes, but answer about buried pipes? Did the nuclear engineer use the words buried, underground as if they were synonyms? Is John Wheeler correct about the use of underground and buried? Or is Gundersen correct in his implication that this is semantic obfuscation of a clear situation?
Were there honest communication errors?