No shit, there i was: driving 85 mph in a rental car that wasn't mine, NPR blasting on the stereo, deer fur decorating parts of the crumpled hood and fender, masturbating furiously in the afternoon traffic. And i was getting paid for it.

U235 + neutron + me = fission fragments + 2 neutrons + heat + gamma rays + hardon


i wasn't exactly in the best shape to be going to a nuclear power plant. i just had my tongue pierced about 5 days before and was still getting used to it. Driving down to the plant took about 4 hours, since putting a nuke in the middle of an urban area is ratherly stupid. We had been on the road for a good hour and a half before the sun came up, AJ in the rental Impala, me in the replacement rental car which i had been cutting doughnuts in the parking lot the previous weekend. But anyway, i wasn't in the best shape to be going there. i was still tired, hungry and probably a bit hung over on the ride down.

"J-Bo, we're gonna need your help with this upcoming job."
"What kind of stuff are you talking about, exactly?"
"Heh. Well..."

i had been involved with gearing up for this job for a long time. An on-site job of this magnitude was one thing, but putting that same job inside a nuke makes all the difference in the world. And there was the CNC milling machine. It was my baby. Put in better terms, it was my responsibility to design a shipping container to get this brand new $65,000 computerized milling machine down to a nuclear power plant, ensure it didn't get irradiated too badly, would function perfectly being run 24 hours a day, 6 days a week and would be protected from the millwrights. It was a hell of a project for a co-op, a project that both delighted and scared me shitless. Strength of materials, weight distribution, DOT regulations, space constraints, machine tolerances, human stupidity, operating environment, hydraulic fluid, spare things, more of those and tools. Tools. In one afternoon i ordered over $9,000 of assorted tooling - endmills, chamfer cutters, parting tools, indexable boring bars, spot drills, countersink cutters, i had ordered it all. 30 of these? No problem. 50 more of those? Coming right up. You want the expensive ones with the TiCN coating? Excellent choice. Let's get 36 of 'em.

Oh, right. The replacement rental car. One of the machinists on night shift hit a deer on the way in to work. He said it was mostly cosmetic damage, so we were taking a replacement rental car down to him. We also wanted to go down and see how the job was progressing and to see the CNC machine in action.

The plant knew we were coming. They had our full names, social security numbers, age, etc. They knew what time to expect us. We had an escort at the plant, one of my bosses who goes on site quite frequently. We were to be within arm's reach of DC at all times, literally. Security at nukes ain't a laughing matter. Concertina and barbed wire atop 12' electrified fences monitored by motion detectors and cameras. All the guards carry pisols, .38 specials by the look of them. i wondered why they carried such anemic firepower, but those will kill you just as quickly as any other caliber. To get into the plant itself, you have to go through a security screening. Check in, sign a card that your escort has to carry visibly at all times, go through the explosive and metal detectors, full body pat down. It took a good 45 minutes and they knew exactly who we were, why we were there and all that. Trying to walk in off the street could get you shot or arrested.

Going into the reactor building had me walking as carefully and cautiously as i could. i was on tiptoe and eggshells the whole time. Check out a dosimeter, wear it around your neck. Dress out in scrubs. Steel-toed boots, safety glasses, hard hat (all from work), hair net, do not linger here (dosage 15 mrem per hour), do not cross this line, hot tool room (with 3' thick steel door). It was all very serious and scary. Yes, this cement wall i'm leaning up against is the wall of the reactor. A mere 4 feet of steel and concrete are all that's keeping me from being fucking fried chicken.

We had our fill of of scary nuclear power plant fun. We went through the full body count to make sure our radiation levels were within tolerance, then off for a late lunch, swap rental cars and head back to the shop. Swap, eat, chat and hit the road, Jack.

getting to the point, i swear

In adolescence, males get erections for no apparent reason. Cute chick walks by, moon and stars in correct alignment, backpack in your lap on the way to school, the wind blows the right way, sproing, You've got wood. It still happens from time to time, and this was one of those times. About half an hour down the road in the fucked up rental car, i got an erection. No big deal. Usually if you ignore it, it goes away. Not this one, this was one tenacious erection. This wasn't an erection to be fucked with, if you'll pardon the expression. Another half hour down the road, i've still got it. No signs of going down at all. This was amusing, as i started to take bets in my head on how long it would last ("i've got $5 on 45 minutes!"), all of which i would have lost.

An hour and a half later, i've still got it (add that shit up, y'all: 2 hours). i'm speeding into the afternoon traffic south of the city and it hurts. It aches and it ain't gonna go away on it's own. This was just abnormal. Something happened to me in the power plant, i'm convinced of this. A stray gamma ray or bit of electric flux or something hit me below the belt. This isn't funny or cute any more. Something had to be done, so i did the only thing that came naturally. i took matters into my own hands. Thank god for cruise control.

Finally back at the shop, i had a bit of a grin on my face. i went home after a long day. i went into the reactor building at a nuclear power plant that day, and as scary as it was, it was amazing. Incredibly complex systems all working in tandem...fission, vapor cycle, rotational inertia, inductance, steam quality, babbit bearing oil pressure, boiler feed pump turbines, liquid-cooled stator bars, cooling towers. Beautifully complex and intricate and scary. This is the kind of shit mechanical engineers eat up like eggs and steak. i was immersed in all sorts of things i had learned about in school, finally seeing it up close and personal and in action. This is what engineers have developed over years and years of refinements and discoveries and innovations. It was impressive and overwhelming. The day i went into a nuclear power plant, i had it hard for nuclear power.

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