Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Grand Marshal Offers



Maple Syrup Reactors Safe, Canadian Prime Minister Reassures

May 23, 2011 | ISSUE 47•21

OTTAWA — Hello, this is Anderson Cooper reporting for Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN. After two weeks assessing the sad state of disbelief left after the tornadoes hit Joplin, MO; making a short stop in Indianapolis on Saturday to participate in the Indy 500, 100th Year Anniversary's Parade -- I was the Grand Marshal, you know. Why, you may ask? I have no idea, I don't even own a car and I don't think owning a bicycle counts as a reason for expertise in race cars. Oh, well. I am now with the Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper who is addressing the growing public concerns about the safety of his country's maple syrup reactors, reassuring citizens that the sucrose fission facilities posed little risk of failure and there was absolutely no reason to be concerned. "Acid rain is not the same as Sucrose rain," he assured the attendants. "You can stick your plate of pancakes or waffles out the window and save bundles while the rain lasts."

The flagship Royal Canadian Maple Syrup Plant south of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

"In light of recent global events, I want to assure everyone that our maple syrup reactors are still the safest in the world," Harper said. "A team of engineers inspected every maple syrup reactor in Canada and found that all the backup systems and safeguard measures were in place and functioning properly. And while they were there they enjoyed an ample supply of Belgian waffles dripping plenty with the pure and fresh syrup that had just come out of the plant."

Harper maintained that safeguarding the production of maple syrup was crucial, as it represents 70 percent of the Canadian economy, generating more than $900 billion each year and more than 1 billion pounds of extra weight on the citizens. Harper also said the nation's 75 maple syrup reactors, which produce 7 billion gallons annually, were a considerable distance away from population centers and would make a perfect route for a Marathon to reduce that 1 billion pounds; but that nobody had yet taken on his idea. He assured me, though, that I would be the Grand Marshal of the very first parade when (and if) the Marathon ever gets organized.

"Maple syrup is still the safest form of sweetener," Harper said. "It's far less dangerous than molasses."

According to Canadian maple syrup authorities, a 30-day assessment of the nation's Pressurized Heavy Syrup Reactors determined the sugar-maple cores were sufficiently cool, xylem sap levels remained stable, and spent maple-candy rods had been disposed of according to regulations. In addition, engineers were reportedly encouraged after monitoring sensors indicated boiling temperatures remained in a safe range that would prevent a devastating maple syrup catastrophe. And according to them, don't wait for a copious Sucrose rain to happen any time soon -- after the reactors get old, say 10 to 15 years old, then you can start placing plates of pancakes and waffles on the window sills. But not now.

During the nationally televised press conference, Harper also introduced Liam McGraw, the chairman of the Canadian Maple Syrup Safety Commission, who assured reporters that Canada's top chemists and maple syrup physicists were diligently working to improve reactor performance by studying the sugary material and eliminating any possibility of leaks or explosions.

Maple plant workers handle the precious yet dangerous syrup material.

"As you can imagine, we have numerous fail-safes in place in case of emergencies," said McGraw, gesturing toward several diagrams. "These include protective barriers consisting of thick steel, concrete, and batter-cake walls with indented lattice patterns that soak up and contain the sweet, sticky liquid. Once in a while I dip in a container of my own to take home."

McGraw also said concerns that trace amounts of sucrose had seeped into the water supply of the United States were unfounded.

"We've learned our lesson from the 1998 Winnipeg incident," McGraw said of the infamous core meltdown, which released dark amber material into the environment, coating vegetation and wildlife in the viscous liquid. "If there were a disaster, we'd be prepared for it. We have protective flapjack fortifications in place to ensure containment, and lots of pancake batter to have a festival and make a good thing out of a disaster. And I've already got an okay from the temporary commission for the festival to make Anderson Cooper our first Grand Marshal for the festivities."

I giggled at the second invitation to be Grand Syrup Marshal in Canada.

Despite the government's assurances of emergency readiness, members of a Canadian maple syrup watchdog group remained critical, claiming a major syrup reactor disaster could expose millions to hazardous levels of concentrated sugars. William Anderson (no relationship to me), the organization's president, said a severe meltdown that dispersed syrup particles into the atmosphere would contaminate soil, immobilize vehicular traffic, and send more than 200,000 citizens into hyperglycemic shock.

And I'd be out of two faaaabu-lous Grand Marshal appearances.

"Just imagine, if one of those reactors blew up, there'd be syrup covering everything in a 1,000-mile radius," said Anderson (no relationship), adding that overexposure could also lead to type 2 diabetes. "And it's so sticky that it's unlikely we'd be able to remove all of it for 10,000 years. The Maple Syrup Safety Commission needs to stop turning a blind eye to these very real dangers and tell us the truth -- 10,000 years seems like a little exaggeration."

Although Harper announced Canada's plans to build at least 15 more maple syrup reactors by 2015, many have expressed interest in switching to a safer form of sweetener production by tapping strategic honey reserves or extracting agave nectar from underground mines.

But what about my Grand Marshal appearances? I thought.

Anderson Cooper wearing his protective suit while reporting from the maple syrup reactors.

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