Everything’s Coming Up Trilliums

by Jeremy Whitlock

Ah, Nuclear Power, my old friend. Please do come in. Have a seat. Again you’ve been away too long.

I feel silly coming here Doc.

Now, now, hush. Sooner or later, everyone comes here. Tell me, how are things going?

Well that’s just it Doc – on the face of it you might say things are going reasonably well.

Yes, I haven’t seen you on CNN for a while. Running smoothly then?

Well, all eighteen reactors in Ontario were running this summer – first time in over fifteen years! And often lately we’ve seen two-thirds of the province’s power come from nuclear fission! Sometimes almost 80%…

Wow, impressive. Like France.

Yeah I guess so. But…

But something’s troubling you. What is it?

Well, I can’t shake this sense of my own mortality. The feeling that all this could end very soon. I feel like one of those guys wearing the red shirts in Star Trek – you know, like I could buy it before the next commercial and nobody would care.

Interesting. And you feel this way despite basically running Ontario this summer?

But does anyone know that? Or care?

I care.

I pay you to care Doc. Even the Ontario government, though, which you think would give a damn – they don’t seem to be too bothered one way or the other.

Now wait a minute. Doesn’t the province’s 2010 Long-Term Energy Plan call for about the same contribution from you in the foreseeable future?

The LTEP? Oh please – I can see the script now: “unnamed guard in red shirt joins the Away Team on the shuttle…”

What do you mean?

I mean look what they’re doing with the LTEP three years later – humming and hawing, wringing their hands, getting ready to throw the Least Voteworthy under the bus.

Ah I see, the LTEP review underway this summer – you feel this is backtracking somewhat?

Backtracking? They’re practically putting the phaser in the alien’s hand and pointing it at my head.

Well that’s really interesting, Nuclear Power, because I’ve been hearing a lot about this LTEP review lately from your compatriots. It would seem to me that everyone’s a little concerned, and I wouldn’t say you’re being mentioned in any particular – how you say – “red shirt” context…

The others have been here? Even Coal? How’s Coal doing?

Oh, you know, dead man walking. Drags himself in here, smokes like a chimney for an hour, coughs up a lung and leaves.

And Hydro?

Mostly stares off into space. Keeps mumbling about being the renewable energy source that everyone forgets about. Sad really. I had to bump him last week so Wind could take his appointment – you’ve got to take Wind when you can get him.

Ah, Wind… He can’t be too worried, surely…?

Interesting case, Wind. A real nervous type, you know? Keeps fidgeting, then falls asleep suddenly in the middle of a session. Then wakes up yelling, and runs out the door, and never books ahead his next appointment – too busy I guess. Never seems to know his own schedule from one day to the next.

What about Natural Gas? Surely he hasn’t needed to talk to you…

Oh on the contrary, I see that chap quite a bit. Giggles a lot. Seems to feel that things are looking up. Keeps saying good things about the rest of you – loves renewables, feels bad about Coal but wishes him well, wants to see every reactor in Ontario refurbished…

Hm, I wonder why. Maybe something to do with being the fall-back guy for the rest of us. I bet he’s salivating with anticipation.

Well, he does have a sparkle in his eye, that’s for sure. But flighty – every now and then he breaks down and complains about feeling guilty. Says that he’s not exactly being honest when he calls himself “clean”. But then he gets over it and becomes quite anxious – wants the province to make a decision right away, almost like he’s afraid people will change their mind.

Or the price of gas will go up.

Ah yes, as a matter of fact he did mention that, and he kept nervously looking at his watch and glancing out the window.

Hey … should you be telling me all this? What about doctor-patient confidentiality?

Oh please, nobody believes a word you say anyway. I’m safe.

I see. Well listen, the fellow I’m mostly worried about is Conservation…

Conservation! Great guy. That lad’s going places. Real go-getter.

You’re kidding – You’ve seen him too?

Well, sort of. He’s never shown up. Best patient I’ve ever had. Pays in full.

So… he’s not a real patient?

Of course he is. Booked in all next week as a matter of fact. I’m going golfing.

I don’t get it.

Neither do I. Listen, forget the Red Shirt thing. I think you’re all in the same boat – and in fact you’re the sanest one among them. I’d say you’re more like a Jack Nicholson, boldly leading the inmates in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Yeah? How did he make out?

Um… times up. Thanks for coming. Please book again on the way out.


Editor’s note: Dr. Jeremy Whitlock has been publishing The Canadian Nuclear FAQ since April 24, 1996. He is a reactor physicist at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s (AECL) Chalk River Laboratories, and currently the Manager of Non-Proliferation and Safeguards. He is also a Fellow of the Canadian Nuclear Society (F.C.N.S.), as well as a Past President and a member of the Board of Directors (he is also a past Board Member of the American Nuclear Society, ANS). Dr. Whitlock has a PhD in Engineering Physics from McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) with a specialty in CANDU reactor physics.

This parody first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol 34, No. 3 and is reprinted here with permission.

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