Monday, April 26, 2010

Three Views of the Outage

The First View: Business is Booming in Brattleboro

Vermont Yankee is on a refueling outage, and business is booming in Brattleboro. This video shows people in Brattleboro who own small businesses, and are happy with the lively days and free-flowing money of the nuclear workers coming into town for the outage. They are happy with the plant, too.

This is a group that doesn't go to Vermont Yankee hearings in the evenings. This is a group you seldom see on TV.

(If you can't access the embedded video, you should be able to link to it here.)

The Second View: Hatred of the Plant and Its People

Not everyone in Brattleboro likes the plant or its people.

On the "Save Vermont Yankee" group page in Facebook, Entergy employee Theresa Derting had this post:
Went to a local hardware store today and bought some last-minute supplies for the outage, used my company credit card, and got sneered at by the guy taking my money. Guess who won't go back there?

(I have Ms. Dertling's permission to use this post in my blog.)

I would like to think that being sneered at because you work for Entergy is an unusual occurrence in Brattleboro, but it isn't. Brattleboro votes against Vermont Yankee. Brattleboro sent two of the most fervent anti-VY people (Rep. Sarah Edwards and Pro Temp Peter Shumlin) to the Statehouse. A constant stream of anti-VY letters-to-the-editor in the Brattleboro paper serve to infuriate or depress plant employees in Vernon. The people at the plant call the Brattleboro paper the Mis-Informer and many of them refuse to read it.


Plant employees are often treated like pariahs. My evidence comes from emails that I have received, and postings on the Save Vermont Yankee page of Facebook.
  • One Entergy employee said that when the employees went to Montpelier last May, senators and representatives "seemed to be avoiding us."
  • Another employee emailed me that she frequently feels like crying, because her family is from the area and she feels so many of the locals hate the employees.
  • An employee of nuclear plant in the South visited VY to do some benchmarking. She emailed me that felt she didn't want to admit that she worked at the plant while she was in downtown Brattleboro. She felt very uncomfortable.
I have more examples, but in the interest of length, I will stop here.

In an earlier post, I talked about the two cultures, and people at the plant and anti-nuclear people were unlikely to see eye to eye. In the VPR article about the two cultures, people at the plant talked of their jobs, church and families. Some spoke of feeling unwelcome. In contrast, anti-nuclear people spoke of their fears that something would go wrong at the plant and hurt them. Different issues for the different groups. The article on two cultures is well worth reading.

Brattleboro is Southern Vermont

This is hard to write, because most people (at the plant, in Brattleboro) are good people and treat each other well. Yet there is a significant minority in Brattleboro who are happy to marginalize plant employees and temporary workers. Some of these people treat VY employees as non-people who have no feelings, and generally act as if the people of Brattleboro are the ruling class and the people of Vernon are.....

Hey, I'll go further. I'll say what I mean. Some anti-nuclear people in Brattleboro act as if they are the whites in the pre-integration South.

The whites in the pre-integration South were top dogs. They were defending their way of life from interlopers and frightening possibilities. The whites of the Old South were sure they were right, and they were highly self-righteous. They weren't shy about keeping the "others" in their place with interruptions and other methods of showing that the words and actions of the marginalized people didn't count for much. They were proud of these actions.

It sounds familiar.

This attitude is not universal among the anti-nuclear people in Brattleboro, and most people on both sides of the fence are basically good-hearted. But I would be lying if I said that scorn of plant workers is uncommon in Brattleboro.

The Third View: The View from Montpelier

Outages are scheduled, plant project charts are prepared, but Montpelier goes right ahead with its agenda.

If you remember, in a post about Old Tritium and New Problems, I described how the Conservation Law Foundation had persuaded (or maybe forced) the Public Service Board to open up a whole new docket about Vermont Yankee, docket 7600. This docket is not about license renewal; it's about shutting the plant down early due to the leak of tritiated water. In my February 27 post, I suggested that the leak would be found and fixed before the new docket could get underway.

I was right, but mere facts can't stop a docket. There's been all sorts of flapping around because the various intervenor consultants on that docket want to visit VY and see the holes and the remediation. They want to come, outage or no outage. The consultants can't re-arrange their schedules. Also, it is possible that the remediation work could finish during the outage and the consultants wouldn't get to see it. The consultants will visit Thursday, April 29, during the outage. The Burlington Free Press blogged about this. The Public Service Board interviewed all stakeholders and issued a Board Order. The visit will happen despite the outage.

Parking on site will be a problem, due to hundreds of extra workers. Security may also be a problem. The visitors will have to carpool from an off-site parking lot. I am sure this will work out fine, with only minimum inconvenience to the intervenors.

End Note:

Tamar Cerafici has an excellent post today about the communications issues at Vermont Yankee. My friend Tamar is a lawyer who lives in New Hampshire.


Sheldon said...

Thanks for this post Meredith. You hit the nail on the head comparing Brattleboro to the old South. Here is one more story to add to the list. My daughter was very big into gymnastics at a Brattleboro business. She one day told me she didn't want to continue. When I asked why she stated, "Blank and blank keep telling me that you are a killer." I said, "WHAT?!?!?" and Her rely was, "Yeah their mom and dad todl them you are trying to kill everyone in the area because you work at VY. I told them you weren't a killer, you saved lives because you were on the fire dept." As much as I hated to I let Reagan quit gymnastics. What kind of says says something like that to their (at the time) 5-6 year old child? I guess things happen for a reason as my daughter focused on figure skating and will be competing in the ISI World Championships in Boston this summer at the age of 7. My 17yo son has taken it upon himself to fight the anti-nuke sentiment at BUHS and appears he may actually be getting somewhere.

Theresa Derting said...

Sheldon - I know the feeling. My 7-year-old daughter came home from school one day near tears, convinced that we would lose our home... because of adult conversations going on at the elementary school that said we were shutting down. Well, with both Mom and Dad working at VY, and knowing that we say we work so we can pay for our home, she put 2 and 2 together and came up with... well, better math than Montpelier seems to. What do you say to that? I tried to reassure her, but the idea of moving isn't exactly something she thought was a good idea.
Regards - Theresa (& Larry & Tatiana) Derting