Episode 15


“As you can see,” the instructor said, “there are two principal ways to detect an illegal. Either observation of suspicious behavior or intelligence information.” Clean-cut, with a white shirt and black tie, the lecturer appeared every inch the FBI agent. “Overall, we believe the apprehension rate is still very low. That means, of course, there are lots of trophies still out there.”

Liz Rezhnitsky smiled and brushed aside a stray lock of her short, cinnamon hair. It looked doubtful the seminar would break any new ground, but then, little had changed when it came to catching spies. Nine years before, she had first learned of illegals in this classroom at the Quantico training facility. She could also remember the time spent sweating and aching in the gym, and practicing at the target range. Nine years!

When it was first announced the FBI was dropping its height requirement of five foot seven inches to allow for more women recruits, the investigator for the Pittsburgh D.A. had been curious. Two inches shorter, until then she had given little thought to the Agency, which had only recently accepted females at all. Soon the stocky young woman with the soulful blue eyes had submitted her application.

It was time for lunch, and a chance for Special Agent Elizabeth Rezhnitsky to pick up a few tidbits about the FBI activities -.

“REZ--NIT--SKI.” The agent in line behind Liz slowly read her name tag aloud. “Sure you're working for the right side?” he said with a laugh.

“Third generation.” Liz sized up her new acquaintance. He was about her age –- thirty-five –- and tall with close-cut blond hair. He seemed pleasant enough. “It's the ones who stayed behind in the old country you should worry about,” she said.

“I suppose you're right,” the man responded, as each slid their tray along the food aisle. “Your family get out to escape the Communists?”

Liz took an apple. “No, the Czar was bad enough.”

“He must have been, for Lenin to get a chance,” the other agent said. “So you're the C.I. coordinator for Indianapolis?”

“That’s me.”

“I thought Bud Ferguson was at Indy.”

“He was.” Liz moved further down the line. “He took a preferential to Bowling Green back in March. Stayed around just long enough to turn it over.”

“You been a C.I. chief before?”

“Coordinator? No,” Liz said. She fought the temptation to have a dessert. “I was on the squad up in Boston, and I did a little work in Silicon Valley.”

“Well, you should be up to speed then. I've been handling Raleigh for a couple of years now. Routine stuff most of the time. But you've got to keep your line in the water.”

“And hope you're in the right spot,” Liz added. She understood the fishing analogy: her father had often taken his only child to a nearby pond.

“Well, keep at it,” the agent said, heading for a table.

“I plan to,” Liz replied. “I want to hook a big one.”


Anton was always nervous in the days before a drop. Much of his new message would be the usual, low-grade material: “Blue Raven recently visited Grissom AFB” and so on, but he had recently been involved in bigger projects as well. One was the return of C393-492, who had visited from the United States in August. Anton had chartered a plane to take Colonel Bykov and the agent to a meeting in Kalinin. As instructed, he had also forwarded a copy of the travel plans to Directorate T, the KGB science department.

Tonight, the classical concert had been providing Anton with a welcome diversion -- until he noticed the woman. Twice during the evening he had caught her discreetly staring in his direction. Dark hair, brown eyes, black skirt, ankle-high boots. The concert over, she had followed him out of the auditorium and then, waiting for the subway, he had seen her again, thirty feet down the platform. She had abruptly looked away. Am I imagining things? He took his seat on the train next to a tired housewife, and reaching back to adjust his collar, he spotted his pursuer six rows behind. Is this a routine check? The KGB did such things from time to time. Or have they caught on? Did I slip up somewhere? Sweat trickled down Anton’s spine. It can‘t end this way!

The train was approaching Park Kultry Station, and Anton decided he would get off and head for Gorki Park, a short walk across the Krymsky Bridge. It would appear a natural thing to do: a stroll on a mild evening. A few twisting pathways and he would have a much better idea of what was going on and perhaps how many were watching him. As Anton shuffled onto the platform, he faked a sneeze and glanced to the right. The woman had gotten off at the other end of the car. Anton followed the crowd up to the street, where he spied one of the newspaper bulletin boards. It was under a light and a Babushka was intently surveying the day's events. Quickly, Anton moved behind the display and watched the subway exit. There she was, at the top of the stairs. His pursuer was looking around, and then she spotted him. She headed in his direction.

Anton tensed. There will be a black Volga pulling up. Two or three men will step out. Someone will ask me to go quietly. The American operative clenched his fists. I won‘t. They can shoot me here, in the street! The enemy was a step away.

“So, Mother, did you have a nice time in the park?” Anton’s pursuer asked the old woman reading the other side of the display.

“Oh, hello dear,” the Babushka said. “Yes. I walked around a bit, fed a few birds. It's good to get outside. How was the play?”

“It was a string quartet, Mother. Fine. About average. Are you ready to head back?”

Anton strolled about Gorki Park, relieved, and a little humiliated. Oh, Viktor! If only you knew!


Wendell tucked in his shirt for the third time. Come on. Let’s have a disaster.

Two operators paced in front of the panels. The drill had started thirty minutes before, and they had begun by making a minor adjustment to vessel water level using the control rod pump, but since then only a few nuisance alarms had broken the tedium. The control room simulator was housed in a non-descript building within a South Bend industrial park. Wendell had spent many hours training in the computerized mock-up. Often, he’d join Karen afterwards for dinner with some of her fellow lawyers. He enjoyed spending time with these educated, ambitious men and women, listening to the kind of insights on the business world that could not be gained from the management books he liked to read.

An annunciator broke the quiet. “High Flow, Main Steam Lines, Reactor Building,” the chief operator reported, silencing the alarm. The buzzing horn immediately returned, and then the wall was awash in blinking lights. The core display began to change from red to green.

“Reactor Scram!” the chief operator announced. “Main steam isolation! High flow!”

A pipe break. Here we go.

FIGURE 4 (again)

Thirty minutes later, Wendell stepped to the center panel to check the pressure in the reactor vessel and watched as the needle crept up past the red line and then took a nosedive. It was as he expected. All control rods were inserted, but the core was still boiling off some water. Because the M.S.I.V.’s had closed, the simulated reactor vessel was ‘bottled-up’ and in pressure control mode. Newly created steam was being periodically bled off to the torus, and the fluid then replaced using a feedwater pump. Unlike the real event he had gone through a few months before, this time the P.R.V.’s were working correctly. But the drill would not end this way. Drills never did.

In the busy staging area, Gary Halvorsen had finished climbing into his anti-c’s and was attaching his film badge and dosimeter, along with a second tube that could record higher rad levels. Doug Tama was doing the same.

“Carol on the offsite team today?” Tama asked.

“Yah. She’ll be out there,” Gary said in his rough voice. He and his wife had each performed in many drills, and they hadn’t bothered to discuss their assignments during the drive to the plant that morning. Gary had just stared straight ahead and said little rather than glance over into Carol’s green eyes. His wife was a born worrier, and over breakfast their finances had become the topic of the day. The cost of his fishing boat, paying off the truck, their plans for a house. It was not a conversation he wished to continue.

In the control room simulator, little had happened in the hour since the scram, as Wendell and the rest of the crew monitored the shutdown reactor.

The room went dark. Then alarms began, and dim emergency lighting flickered on.

Oh, Christ. Not so good . . .

“Loss of primary offsite power!” the assistant operator said. “Auto transfer to backup supply has not occurred! . . . Both diesels have started . . . loading!” The room grew brighter as more lighting returned.

So much for offsite power. Wendell grimaced. Electricity was no longer being directed into the plant from either of the transmission lines passing nearby. Now, only the emergency diesel generators, the battery banks, and steam from the reactor would be available to power Fairview's equipment. That meant the feedwater pumps could no longer be run to replace the vented steam. It was up to the emergency systems to take over the job.

The first two hours of the drill had been tedious for Carol Halvorsen. She had helped load the white, company SUV and then rode to the site boundary with her driver, Marty. Also along in the back seat was a young engineer from Kittleburg. Blonde and balding, wearing a blue nylon jacket and clutching a clipboard, he would serve as the drill controller.

In the nearby woods there were splashes of red, yellow and orange as maple trees began to show their autumn colors. Carol soon reported over the radio that they were in position. And that had been it so far. She wished more would happen. At least the company isn’t bad. Marty was much easier to get along with than her past drivers. The short, pudgy laborer, with unruly charcoal hair, a bulbous nose, and a chuckling sense of humor, was good at his job as well. And now, finally, the drill seemed to be picking up. Drill controllers had just informed the health physics personnel patrolling the yard that they had detected an invisible cloud of gas, giving off at least 1000 milli-rems -- one Rem. It was moving away from the turbine building, a few hundred yards upwind from the sport utility vehicle, where Carol sat in the passenger seat holding the detachable probe of a Geiger counter out the window. The meter box rested on her small lap, clicking at random from background radiation.

The controller looked at his schedule, then his watch. “Your meter will show that rads are starting to creep up.”

“Fine.” Carol picked up the radio mike. “Offsite Leader, this is Drill Team One. Beginning to see the plume.” She quickly exchanged the counter on her lap for another at her feet. The first device was useful for detecting an approaching source of radioactivity, but it would be too sensitive once the cloud had arrived. Carol stuck the new probe out the window. “Mr. Controller, what am I reading now?”

“5 m.r.” the controller replied. “Now 10, now 50.” He paused. “150. . .300. . .400.”

“I'm putting my hand over the probe,” Carol said, as she covered the sensing area with her small palm.

“Your reading dropped to 200,” the controller replied.

“Ground-based release,” Carol announced. “We're in the plume.” A cloud of radioactive gas could produce several forms of radiation, but one type could only be sensed from within the cloud itself -- a subatomic particle with so little energy it was able to travel just a few feet in open air, and could not pass through a human hand.

Carol removed her palm from the probe face. “Now reading . . . ?” she asked.

The drill controller glanced at his notebook. “Back up to 500. . .700. . .900. . .”

“Marty,” Carol ordered her driver, “start moving slowly, and cut across the wind. Let's see how wide this thing is.” She reached over and grabbed the radio handset as the vehicle lurched into motion. Finally, some action.

Steve sat behind his desk at one end of the emergency center. The long, low-ceilinged space was near the staging area in the basement of the site's administration building. Before him, staff members were studying blueprints, or the floor plans of Fairview Station posted along one wall. Also on display was a map showing the surrounding countryside. An arrow indicated the direction of the wind.

The crew at the simulator finished their update, and Steve set the phone back on its cradle. A damaged vent had already allowed a release of radiation into the environment despite the use of ARAFS, and now with STurDI-1 and STurDI-2 having just broken down, the situation was even worse.

At least I won’t have to deal with the public. That duty belonged to Bill Chambers, the Offsite Emergency Coordinator. A self-described “big galoot in a business suit”, the tall, bald and heavy-set Chambers operated out of the corporate offices in South Bend, working with the Civil Defense to coordinate shelter warnings and evacuations. While Steve’s interactions with the NRC on a daily basis could be difficult –- trying to balance technical arguments, arcane regulations, and the needs and interests of the government’s personnel –- he knew this would be nothing compared to confronting an angry, fearful, distrusting citizenry.

Lou Tarelli came out of a nearby room where radio contact was maintained with personnel both inside and outside of the plant. “Steve,” he said, “our repairs aren’t going well.”

In the simulator, the water covering the fuel had boiled off, and the procedures now called for Wendell and the crew to replace it once and for all. We’ll have to blow down. The VEPI or Fuel Spray pumps could be used to force water back into the reactor vessel – if the pressure inside the steel capsule was first reduced by a considerable amount. To do that, all of the pressure relief valves would have to be opened at once. It was a drastic step. If the crew could think of another option, the procedures allowed them to pursue it –- but there were no alternatives. It was time to blow down.

From his office window, Steve watched the sunset as a Beach Boys song quietly played in the background. Marie had given him the radio as a birthday present after noticing he tuned in to the oldies station while working in his den. She had been right, of course – at the end of a long day the music helped him relax. Memories of simpler times.

The drill had been challenging, but it had gone well. Steve’s biggest concerns had come early in the simulation, as his staff battled a few simple problems, for he knew such things could actually happen. But as the test moved along, he always had trouble playing the game, for he believed – he knew in his gut – that no event at Fairview would ever be allowed to progress to the big accident. The plant had been built well and it had many backup systems. There were also good people in all his departments. They were focused on safety, and he was confident they could handle any concern while it was still minor. And, if he ever had an inkling that something was amiss, he would see that it was corrected. His people would - – he didn’t shoot messengers. The plant would remain safe. His plant would remain safe.

Steve got up and prepared to go home, then spotted the thick document in his in-basket. I should review the outage schedule. Refueling was just a month away. He smiled and turned toward the door. Not tonight. Stacey had a tennis match – and her backhand was getting better.


End Post 15



“If I lift enough doughnuts.”


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