Copywriting and Public Relations 

Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC) Success Story

Whitetail Manufacturing

This is one of several success stories written for VMEC, an organization that helps Vermont businesses improve their manufacturing practices.  

With VMEC support, Whitetail Manufacturing improved its quality control, received an important certification, and gained new customers.  The first paragraphs of the success story are below, followed by a link to the entire article on the VMEC web site.

Whitetail Manufacturing is a Vermont precision manufacturer of close tolerance parts of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics and phenolics.  The company, located in Williston, Vermont, has been in business for seventeen years and has fourteen employees.  For several years, Whitetail had been courting business from a large aerospace manufacturer. During this process, Whitetail received a request for a quote (RFQ) from the manufacturer for a long-term contract opportunity.  It looked too good to be true.

In fact, it was too good to be true.  Whitetail had been sent the request by mistake.  The RFQ was targeted to firms that were AS9100 certified and Whitetail lacked this certification.  With this clear evidence of the opportunities they were missing, Whitetail became serious about qualifying for appropriate certifications.

Read the rest of the article here.  

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) 

Newsletter article about liners for ash ponds at coal-fired power plants

EPRI performs research to benefit the power industry, and communicates the results to its industry sponsors.  The following article is part of a newsletter that EPRI sent to utility executives and engineers.  It describes results of a research project that improved natural (clay) liners for ash ponds.  

The U.S. electric utility industry generates approximately 80 million tons of coal combustion by-products each year. About 25% of that material is re-used, but the remainder is placed in ponds and landfills at costs of $25 to $30 a ton. For more than ten years, EPRI has led an industry-wide effort to identify, install and test options which will lower the cost of by-product disposal. 

Pond liners are a major component of the disposal costs. Utility ash ponds can be lined with clay or synthetic materials, but synthetic liners cost millions of dollars more per facility. However, using clay liners can sometimes lead to unacceptable quantities of heavy metals leaching from the pond into the groundwater.   EPRI developed and tested low-cost improvements for clay liners, and these liners can now be used in many circumstances that would have required more expensive synthetic liners.     

The article describes EPRI development and testing of liners made of clay mixed with alum.  Such liners decreased leachate from the ash pond because alum absorbs heavy metals. Alum also encourages the growth of sulfate bacteria, and the growth of these bacteria "clogs" the liner, decreasing permeability  and keeping more of the heavy metals within the pond. 

Results described in this newsletter article saved the utilities millions of dollars and improved groundwater quality near coal plants. (Only part of the lengthy article is included here.) Many utilities read the article and chose to order the entire technical report on ash pond liners. Articles such as this encouraged utilities to support funding for the EPRI pollution control group. 

Gas Utility: White Paper

This white paper described a gas utility's plan to implement a risk-based management tool. It was intended for utility use with pipeline regulators. Part of the introduction is presented below.

Regulators and gas utilities are now preparing for risk-based management of failure corrosion in pipelines.  In the past. failure control relied on a command-and-control  regulation.  The regulators set standards, and the utility had to prove that they met those standards.  In the future, utilities will not necessarily meet imposed standards.  Instead, they must present the regulators with a risk management plan that the regulators find acceptable.  Regulators have placed a higher burden of proof on gas utilities, who are now required to develop and defend their own standards.  

However, developing their own standards can also save utilities money and increase public safety.  Command and control regulations often required excessive inspection regimes.  Regulations on pipeline wall thickness versus housing density forced gas utilities to remove and replace excellent pipelines when a  neighborhood moved from one density classification to a higher classification (the "extra house" effect).   

This paper describes a risk-based management method that avoids these and other problems.  The methodology takes full advantage of the data that a utility has already collected about their lines.  Many elaborate risk management systems require far more data than most utilities have or can collect.  Such systems quickly become unworkable. The data-based risk management system described in this paper is usable and robust.  It yields excellent cost-benefit tradeoffs for the utility and the public, without excessive costs for data collection.

A version of this paper was presented at a corrosion conference.  

Social Networking Campaigns

Volunteer Work for Vermont Yankee

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant faces fierce opposition to its request for license extension.  Unlike other power plants, Vermont Yankee requires Vermont legislative approval to continue operations.  Meredith Angwin is administrator of the Save Vermont Yankee page on Facebook.

Meredith Angwin blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee. She tweets about her blog at @yes_VY. In June 2010, Areva invited a group of opinion-leader nuclear bloggers to tour their French facilities, which include the world-famous reprocessing center at La Hague. Meredith is proud to have been one of the bloggers chosen for the tour.  

Note: All Vermont Yankee advocacy is done on a volunteer basis. Carnot Communications is not funded by Entergy (or by any Entergy-funded organization) for  advocacy work. 

Speakers Bureau

Lebanon College in New Hampshire

More and more engineers are required to do their own technical writing. Meredith Angwin designed and taught a workshop in technical writing for engineers, which she presented at Lebanon College. The full-day workshop included many examples and opportunities for students to do projects.  A brief outline of the workshop is available here.  

Coalition for Energy Solutions

Meredith Angwin is a founding member of the Coalition for Energy Solutions. She organized and publicized the Coalition's first public event: a lecture on energy conservation and energy sources.  All members of the Coalition are scientists and engineers dedicated to rational analysis of America's energy needs.  

At the lecture, Willem Post spoke on standards (American and European) for home energy efficiency.  He described methods and materials for increasing the efficiency of your home.  Peter Roth spoke on the future of energy use in America, pointing out that gas and nuclear are likely to increase as sources of electricity, while hydroelectric power and coal use will decrease. Hydroelectric use will decrease because America is unlikely to build many more large dams, and many older western dams face steep declines in power production due to silting. 

Copyright 2010-2013 by Meredith Joan Angwin
Carnot COmmunications