Only a nuclear facility with a team of corporate image makers could survive the tangled string of accidents and safety mishaps that have plagued Vermont Yankee. If Yankee were a bakery, to put it another way, no one would eat their bread. If Yankee were a slaughterhouse, everyone would turn vegan. And if Vermont Yankee Nuclear were a whorehouse, everyone in the surrounding area would attend church on Sunday, and be strictly faithful to their wives.
But Yankee is a nuclear facility, of course, owned by a fantastically wealthy out-of-state concern, and its image is watched over by some of the PR world’s most expensive talent.
So when a gantry crane fumbles a dry-cask filled with radioactive fuel assemblies, allowing the entire gargantuan load to wind up on the concrete floor, that becomes an opportunity to tout Entergy’s corporate openness: given that the mishap didn’t present a “safety hazard,” the company wasn’t legally required to report it, and the fact that it did so demonstrates “an effort to further transparency.”
Now that’s crack PR work.
Let’s not forget that the concept of dry-cask storage, and shipment, is key to Entergy’s long-term operational plan; doubts about the basic movement of casks within the plant, let alone outside it, could bring down the whole house of irradiated cards.
Still, spokesman Rob Williams and the image boys over at Entergy aren’t infallible. Far from it: their over-the-top spin has more than once kept a safety incident in the news for an extra cycle or two, as journalists wonder over their linguistic up-is-downism.
But here at VDB, we like to keep our eye on the small stuff. Like the corporate website, which you’ll find, predictably enough, at safecleanreliable.com, and which currently contains one of the most revealing and unintentionally frank typos in recent memory.
In the center-right of the screen, just below a glamour shot of the plant on a sunny day in June, is a bold-faced invitation: “We invite you to learn more about our current energy options and the challenges of our entergy [sic] future.”
Now, what Rob Williams meant to say was “the challenges of our energy future,” but sometimes the truth will out, regardless of who’s signing your paycheck.
And here is where the fun begins.
It’s Wednesday, 8 am, and the Freudian typo still sits proudly on the website. But for how long? Rob Williams has two options: leave it there as an embarrassing proof of Entergy’s fallibility, or quickly scrub it from the website, as evidence that the corporate types at Burson-Marsteller read VDB with a jaundiced eye every single day.
The clock is ticking. We’ll keep you posted.