Will walks into the office clumsily trying to answer his cell phone which lands, ringing, at C.J.'s feet. She picks it up while telling him that "the President wants to make a statement in the next few minutes." "Saying what?" "Whatever we can figure out in the next few minutes." Will recounts all of the latest rumors about fires and other plant shutdowns, but C.J. just warns him that the press will be speaking to everyone and that Will's in charge of the information flow. He dryly points out, "I have no information." "Welcome to the club," she replies. "Let's start with that statement." I believe she means "the statement she referred to earlier in this conversation," and not "I have no information," though I'd kind of like to see if that stunned the crowd into silence for a moment.
Bartlet wants to know what the chances are of a nuclear meltdown. "A meltdown isn't when one thing goes wrong -- it's when 12 things go wrong," Harry points out. Based on the winds, FEMA is recommending that they evacuate "15 down, six and nine around." Who in the what now? Will asks C.J. for me, who explains, "15 miles between six and nine, like a clock." State Emergency Services apparently only wants ten miles, the legal minimum. Jed responds, "Tell them if they want ten miles, the Governor and I will be setting up a command post at 10.1 miles and we'd like them to join us there." He asks if the press is ready, and Will and C.J. point out that they really don't have much to give them. Mr. FEMA comes back cupping the phone: "It sounds like they're more comfortable with fifteen."
9:34 PM, and Bartlet enters to make his statement. It's very brief -- stops the explosion and terrorism rumors, and announces the Governor's evacuation and the declaration of federal emergency.
Santos, Helen, Donna, and Bram watch the news coverage, and Josh walks in as Donna wonders why they put a nuclear power plant so near a big population. Santos, chin in his hand with an exhausted look, explains how the power is lost as it is transmitted, so they need to be close. Helen points out that he should put out a whole new energy plan based on how ludicrous the current one seems, and Bram adds, "And how Vinick's [plan] almost glows in the dark." Everyone starts to jump on this idea, including holding a press conference for environmental groups and handing out water to evacuees. Josh, quiet this whole time, pulls Santos aside. "Where's Leo?" (That question got me more than the episodes we've seen him in since John Spencer's death, since all I then noticed was his absence.) Josh answers that he's headed to Ohio. Santos is nervously pacing, declaring that he doesn't want to comment on this and make it political. Josh wholeheartedly agrees, and then goes so far as to suggest that they "go dark" the next day. He also shrewdly points out that the public already knows that Santos is anti-nuclear, while Vinick is the exact opposite. "Let the press go after Vinick on their own, so they can't accuse us of playing politics." Santos is fine with that idea, and Josh clarifies that he means they "go completely dark," including no statements, releases, or any word to the press on any issue for the next day. Santos seems to agree. "See which way the wind blows," he muses. "And what's blowing in it," Josh adds.
10:28 PM. As Bartlet walks into the sit room, C.J. updates him that the heat removal pump isn't doing much good (20 degrees in a 700-degree space). On the phone, Harry gives them an update that they have a temporary coolant line now running into the core. Bartlet just stares. "I don't see anyone popping champagne corks -- I thought if we got a line in there, we'd avoid a meltdown." The problem seems to be this pesky extra building where the radioactive steam is being pumped. It can only handle 50 pounds of pressure and is already at 32, and the coolant line won't work well enough to stop the steam. The steam is unstable, and though they knew this when building the facility and designed the containment building to handle that, the dilapidated farmhouse or wherever its being pumped cannot. The solution is letting some of the steam into the air to release the pressure. Ah, a little radioactive steam bath to get the local flora growing! There are still 30,000 people in the area, and Bartlet, perfecting his furrowed brow, wants to find out what the alternative option is. "An explosion that spreads radiation across Southern California, maybe parts of Arizona and Nevada…sir." Well, Harry, I suppose when you put it that way… The gas that is let out would most likely be within EPA standards (great odds) and "it's Santa Ana season in Southern California." C.J. adds, "Which could be good, if the winds stay consistent, the radiation could drift out over the ocean. "How do we speed up the evacuation?" Bartlet asks. "Tell people we're about to spill radiation into the air," is the response, accompanied by a little shrug, "Good chance that'll speed them up." They'll have an hour to decide, and since they have taken over running the plant, it will be Bartlet's call when the time comes. Nothing like ending the Presidency with a bang! Ba-dum-bum. Well, except that this would hopefully NOT cause the bang, but you see, I was playing…oh, never mind. The scientific discussion is frying my brain, and I don't even live near a leaking nuclear plant.