September 19th, 2008

The Carefree Vermont Yankee Lifestyle

by Philip Baruth

Nothing really caps a crisp fall afternoon like an absolutely thumb-fingered attempt to deny serious problems down at Vermont Yankee, does it? The safety issue du jour? What spokesbot Rob Williams refers to as “degraded” support beams in another of the cooling towers, and related leakage. Such wide-spread degradation, like “iron rot” (the cause of an earlier spectacular collapse), is not to be confused with a “safety-related” failure, of course.

But it’s funny how this whole Vermont Yankee world-view works. Safety is never at issue, never, never, never, never, regardless of what burns, or busts, or discharges into the Connecticut River. That stream of water flooding the floor of the cooling tower? Nothing to worry about.

You begin to wonder what your life would be like if your own house ran this way. Suppose you woke up and the garage was on fire, but the fire department said it wasn’t a structural issue, even though the garage was connected to the house.

Or your toilet was discharging waste and effluvium, flooding your second floor, but your neighbor told you not to worry because all houses have their issues. That’s what houses do, he says.

What if every time you looked around, your house was falling down around your ears?

not so cool

And suppose, after all these spectacular failures, you had an opportunity to sell the house in question, but your real estate agent said that selling wouldn’t be smart because another house would likely cost you more.

You’d tell all of these folks to go pound salt, and you’d buy another house anyway, paying a bit more maybe in the process, because safety comes first for your family, and fire and flood and collapse are indeed safety-related issues, no matter what anyone says to the contrary.

But not in Yankee World. Never in Yankee World.