The Power Plant
Most days are the same repetitive protocol for Homer at the power plant. Man an automated control board, watch for warning lights, approve automated procedures. You know, lots of time to sleep off last night. Not this morning though, this morning was different. This morning started a 7:02 a.m. when Homer arrived for work, two minute late, to be informed a generator stator was due for replacement and scheduled to happen during this mornings refueling process in reactor 1. Refueling takes place every few months and is routine but replacing a huge piece of equipment like a stator on a generator on the scale a nuclear power plant can rattle your nerves just a little.
Homer was a little foggy from last nights drunken stupor at Moe’s. He promised Marge he’d come straight home tonight, he’d taxed her will enough for this week. He was already looking forward to getting home and just laying on his old couch with a bag of chips and a beer and let the t.v. numb his brain.
“O.k. Homer, reactor 2 is running smoothly and 1 is completely shut down and in stable mode.” Shouted the night boss over the hum of the huge generators developing millions of watts waiting to get out of the building and power Springfield. “You got this from here? I’m ready to go home.”
“Yea, yea I got it,” Homer yelled back. “It’s already seven forty-five, get the hell outta here!”
The night boss nodded and left. Carl had removed most of the bolts while Lenny secured the chains from the massive hoist that ran the length of the generator building. Homer went through the check list for generator discharge, this would have already been done by the night shift but safety regulations require it be done twice before the removal of any piece of the generator. Safety regulation also required Homer to visually inspect the hoist, it’s chains and it’s control line. This would require Homer to leave the control booth and enter the generator room, lower the hoist with a secondary control and add a extra hour to the whole operation. Mr. Burns need for efficiency was burned deep into the employees minds, besides Homer knew what he would see. A hoist and a chain, you would need ex-ray vision to actually carry out the inspection before you could see any weakness’s developing in a chain. Everything seemed fine. The board indicated power to the hoist. A rail car was waiting to carry the old stator away, a new one would arrive tomorrow and the whole process would be reversed. Reactor 3 was in stand-by mode and indicated all good in case there was a problem with reactor 2. Homer gave the thumbs up from the control booth.
Carl removed the last of the huge bolts holding the stator in place. He gave Homer the signal to tighten up on the hoist. Lenny tied a hundred foot rope through one of the links near the bottom of the chain as a control line. A heavy lift requires three people, a operator (Homer), a signal man (Carl) and some one to man the control line (Lenny). The hoist is rated to lift the entire generator so the four ton stator was well within it’s capacity.
Carl gave the signal to move away slowly. Homer gingerly pushed the joystick to the right. The hoist hummed loudly as it activated. The chains pulled even tighter as the hoist slid away. Nothing happened so Carl signaled a to move away again. Homer pushed a little longer to the right, the motor responded then groaned, nothing. Then with a reverberating thunk the stator broke free. Large objects move slowly but are hard to stop once started. The hoist was at least ten feet away when the stator finally released. Lenny pulled hard on the control line to prevent the beast from gaining to much momentum while Carl gave the signal to move away. If the hoist didn’t move now the stator would pass the hoist and swing back like a giant pendulum making it hard to control. Homer held steady on the control stick and the whole lift took off as practiced. Except for Lenny’s pull on the rope had caused the stator to start to rotate slowly as it moved. Lenny followed it around gently tugging trying to stop the spin. As he came around to the side away from the control booth, between the stator and the generator buildings massive concrete walls, the monster slowed and almost stopped after a 180 degree spin. Then a pin in the hook of the chain closest to Homer snapped, it’s center of balance shifted towards Lenny. Carl gave a stop sign just as the chain let go. It swung straight towards Lenny and struck the huge concrete walls with a ground shaking thud.
Automated seismic sensors felt the vibration in the building and set reactor 2 into emergency shut down mode. Carl desperately signaled stop but Homers brain was locked onto the image of Lenny crushed like a bug on a windshield. He froze with fear. As reactor 2 slowed, it’s wattage decreased, setting off more alarms. Emergency start for another reactor is manual so a human can decide which reactor is turned on, the grid needed reactor 3 online to meet it’s demands, more alarms went off.
Marge hummed joyfully as she washed the mornings breakfast dishes in the house. Homer was off to work, Bart and Lisa were at school and soon it would be her and Maggie with not a care in the world when she noticed the lights flicker. Her first thought was Homer, all of the sudden worry sank into to where her previous joy had been and replaced it. She made an audible high pitched groan that caused Maggie’s content pacifier sucking to stop abruptly. Her face also reflected the worry in her mom’s voice. Marge noticed.
“Oh Maggie, don’t worry about your father,” she consoled her as she knelt in front of her high chair. “See the lights are still on, everything’s fine.” Maggie took comfort in the sound of her mothers reassuring voice. A twinkle of love for her mom sparked in her eyes as she gazed at her. Then the house fell dark and silent. A couple of squeaks on the pacifier lead to a whimper, then Maggie began to bawl. Marge stood up and pulled Maggie from the high chair clutching her tight.
“Maggie stop, your fathers O.K.,” she said. “A car probably hit a pole somewhere or a squirrel shorted out a transformer somewhere.” She rocked her baby back and forth, the need to console her child was greater than her fears. “That’s what it is, a stupid squirrel just got fried like a chicken somewhere. which is silly because squirrels don’t taste like chickens. They taste more like rabbits, all gamey and out doorsy.” Maggie whimpered as Marge tried desperately to console her. “I’m so glad your fathers not a hunter. I’d much rather buy meat from the store than have to skin a poor little bunny because lord knows that’s all your father would be able to kill is helpless little bunnies.” The bawling stopped, a couple of more squeaks on the pacifier, her cheeks soaked in tears. “You don’t want to eat bunnies do you Maggie?” Squeak.
The florescent lights buzzed and then flickered back on. The hum of the refrigerator started with a clunk. The t.v. sprang back to life in the living room, rarely was it off.
“See,” Marge said. “I told you, some stupid squirrel just got fried. Besides, your father promised to come straight home tonight and we’ll all sit down and have a nice family dinner together. Your brother and sister will get along and everything will be just great, you’ll see. Just great.” Now Maggie sucked her pacifier fervently wishing her mother would stop crushing her with the hug of relief.
The front gates of the power plant became drenched in flashing lights like a rock concert. Crowds gathered as sirens soared, a bull horn was used to broadcast instructions about who was allowed where and which side of the road you should be on. A helicopter flew over head. The hazard beacons at the plant still wailed like a giant in despair trapped behind the heavily armored fence.
“This is Kent Brockman with The News” a view finder saw in front of the gates of the power plant as an ambulance and the NRC investigators passed through the police barricade.
“Well, it looks like it’s going to be a long night boys.” Chief Wiggum said as he closed the gate, it was 8:37 a.m.. Mr. Withers handled the press but would only give consent to the interview if it was held off till the 10 o’clock broadcast to give time for a full investigation to be complete.
“The powers back on and no radiation leaks have been detected.” Mr. Smithers was good at this sort of thing. “All the emergency procedures that are suppose to take place have done so. Now if I can ask you all to gather at the canopy to receive a press release packet and sandwiches which have been prepared for your convenience this morning by our lovely ladies from the cafeteria. Please give them a big thanks as you pass through. “
“And up next, brunch.” Kent told the cameraman. It would be 14 hours before the story would air.
Carl, Barney and Homer were the only customers Moe had in the bar tonight. That was usual though, except that Lenny was missing.
“So,” Moe started, “Where’s the other loser that’s always hanging around you guys. I gotta a budget to follow you know.”
“You bastard!” Homer lunged for Moe but Carl had him in a choke hold almost immediately.
“Moe, we had an accident at the plant tonight,” Carl explained still restraining the inconsolable Homer who now was in a weeping, sobbing struggle against Carl’s one arm.
“What? Like you morons don’t always screw up or something?” Moe recanted.
“You don’t understand Moe,” Carl continued. “Lenny’s dead and it looks like Homer here might be at fault or something.”
“Geez Homer, why did you have to go and kill Lenny.” Barney blurted out.
“Oh Great!” Moe became irate. “There goes another twelve bucks a night. I guess I can kiss my Easter basket goodbye.”
“You bastard,” Homer barley vocalized through his crying voice while trying to swing a fist against Carl’s vise grip hold.
“It’s o.k. Homer, you didn’t mean to kill Lenny. It was just an accident or something.” Carl embraced the overcome Homer as he wept uncontrollably. “It’s o.k..”
“Just keep the beer coming Moe. It’s on me tonight.” Carl said.
“Cool Carl,” said Barney. “I just finished my last beer.”
“Well, in that case,” Moe replied. “I guess I’ll have one too, if they’re all on you and all. I mean seeing how I’m gonna see the dark side of Simpson tonight.”