Friday, May 28, 2010

Entergy Communications

As you remember, I had a busy Tuesday, trying to deal with every aspect of my energy life. Among other things, I
  • Took over the administration of the Save Vermont Yankee group on Facebook (I was annoyed).
  • Went to a Vermont Tiger symposium and practiced media relations (I apologized)
  • Heard Brian Dubie speak (I was impressed)
  • Talked to people about Vermont Yankee (I was depressed)
  • Read a good report about renewables (I was impressed again)
  • Went to a meeting about conservation (I was discouraged).
I covered the first half of this list in my post yesterday. Today I will talk about Vermont Yankee and communications.

Vermont Yankee and Communication and Depression

The Vermont Tiger Crunch Time meeting was a perfect rendezvous for Vermont Yankee supporters. Republican candidates, economists, a meeting co-sponsorship by Vermont Energy Partnership. It could have been moderately cheerful for me.

Alas, I was not cheered. In many off-the-record conversations, I heard the same thing: "I like nuclear, I even like the plant, but I can't stand Entergy."

People expanded on the theme.
  • Entergy has to convince me they are telling the truth.
  • It's nearly impossible to get information out of them.
  • The plant is an asset to the state, but I don't want to see us sign a twenty-year agreement with those guys.
I heard this over and over again.

I found it very discouraging. I blog for Vermont Yankee because I believe nuclear is the best option for the future, and the best transition to renewables. I can't defend Entergy's corporate communication style. I know that the plant is good: it just had a magnificent breaker-to-breaker run. The reliable electric power and the statewide economics of Vermont Yankee are very good for the state.

However, Entergy's communication style can be useless to counter-productive. For example, a story of a tour of the plant. I grant you that the author of this article is president of VPIRG and an opponent of Vermont Yankee. I also grant you that the tour took place during the outage. Still, this kind of tour is no way to win friends and influence people. Don't ask questions because your guide won't be able to answer them? Be abandoned in the parking lot with no further information?

Now, I can see why Vermont Yankee would NOT want to speak to these particular people. With the anti-s, any statement that can be taken out of context and vilified WILL be taken out of context and vilified. Still, there are better ways to communicate with anti-s then to refuse to answer questions. Perhaps only answer questions afterwards in a meeting room, with recording in place? Something like that?

Sometimes I think that the best way for Entergy to get Vermont Yankee's license renewed would be to sell the plant. I find this depressing. It's good plant, but nobody trusts Entergy.

I will post about renewables and conservation tomorrow.


Howard Shaffer said...

Former Senator Alan Simpson said in a recent Newsweek interview "A charge unanswered is a charge believed." Ask Senator John Kerry who didn't respond rapidly and forecefully to the Swiftboat attacks during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

Vermont Yankee has/is specializing in not answering charges. It may seem unfair, but they are stuck with answering all the generic charges thrown at the nuclear power industry. Why they don't get help from NEI etc. is beyond me.

The antis bring in Helen Caldicott to do a book signing meeting IN THE STATEHOUSE sponsored by a Vermont wind turbine company. They bring in Beyond Nuclear. VPIRG gives summer internships to college students to particpate in a bike ride through the state to shut down the plant.

And Entergy wants to discourage a Facebook page??

Deb Katz of Citizens Awareness Network stood on the Statehouse steps at a rally with the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House behind her and said that shutting down VY is the first step to shutting down all the plants in country, then all the plants in the world!! Whatever happens to VY will be used elsewhere. Dont' the people leading this industry get it?

Meredith Angwin said...

The awful thing is they CAN do a good job when they put their mind to it. They did a terrific job at the "science fair" about tritium, as I reported in an earlier blog post.
And Savoff's presentation on tritium was excellent. I reported on that also.
However, Entergy is completely inconsistent in their level of involvement. They don't realize that newspapers come out EVERY day. That politicians give repeated speeches. That communication is a process and not an event.
Communication is a process. They should pay attention to it.

Meredith Angwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Gamble said...

I couldn't agree with you more Meredith. There are so many in this industry who are chomping at the bit to get the message out and be more proactive in this debate. But it's the same thing over and over again: company spokesperson only, don't ruffle any feathers, we're afraid you might say something stupid.

Well where has this policy taken us?

The industry is constantly held on the defensive by legions of the unread who say whatever they want with no regard to technical merit and yet 'we' let it go unanswered which only legitimizes the misinformation in the eyes of those watching the debate.

Worse yet, some of those who step up to the plate to defend our industry are scolded for it and ordered to stand down.

This industry must throw away the no comment policy and be more proactive and Vermont Yankee is a perfect example of why.

Kit P said...

John Kerry brought up his war record at the convention. Big mistake. Kerry also flew across country in his wife jet to wear tacky spandex and go wind surfing. This was to demonstrate he was an environmentalist. On the other hand, I have seen pictures of the then senior senior from that state in a old classic sailboat teaching under privileged to sail.

The best way of communicating an image is to pick the right one.

So if you are running a nuke plant and want to show that it is well maintained and an asset to the community so you can keep making a profit for 20 mores, keep the plant on line and out of the news.

Meredith Angwin said...

VY has kept running pretty well. It finished a 530 day run just before the outage. Unfortunately, "keep the plant running" is not the same as "out of the news." The tritium leak problem went on for a VERY long time, and is still going on. The problem was not the leak, which was found and fixed in a few weeks. The problem was, and remains, confusing testimony by Entergy.

People's perception of Entergy is very negative, and very hard to change.

Kit P said...

The problem is not the leak itself but the failure to adopt lesson learned from the industry. I do hesitate to comment on VY because it is not in my backyard

I think VY has a very good record. A 530 day run is a good performance indicator. I have been at several plants on the NRC watch list. Not only did they refuse to learn from industry experience but they repeated the same problems over and over. A catch and release policy is good for sensitive trout streams not problems at nuke plants.