Bartlet (Martin Sheen) must face the possibility of an exploding nuclear reactor in California. In the midst of this emergency exists the presidential campaign and the candidates find themselves struggling to find a good strategy to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, Kate (Mary McCormack) keeps an eye on the impending battle between Russia and China over Kazakhstan.
THE WEST WING 7x12 - "DUCK AND COVER" WRITTEN BY ELI ATTIE DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER MISIANO Transcribed by Soundman for www.twiztv.com. Send feedback to [email protected] TEASER FADE IN: EXT. - PORTICO - NIGHT 9:19 PM C.J. and Kate are waiting for Bartlet to walk out. He does and they start talking. BARTLET What do we know? C.J. 17 minutes ago, at 6:02 Pacific Time, emergency sirens went off at the nuclear generating station in San Andreo, California. The main feed-water pump failed. Everything proceeded as expected: a relief valve opened to let the water escape, the reactor scrammed... BARTLET It shut itself down. C.J. But now a valve is malfunctioning and coolant has stopped flowing into the reactor's core. BARTLET If they can't get coolant into the core... C.J. The uranium fuel rods become exposed, which makes them highly combustible. We could be looking at a full-scale nuclear meltdown. BARTLET Full-scale as in...? They have walked into the Oval Office. C.J. FEMA thinks the plume could cover all of San Andreo - population: 42,000. Federal response teams are on their way. BARTLET Any word on the cause? C.J. Could be human error, a design flaw... KATE It's not likely a terrorist would sneak in there and jam a valve. We're rechecking all the relevant intel. BARTLET Has the public been notified? C.J. No. But when they shut down the reactor there was a steam release that sounded something like a Concorde landing and CNN's already running rumors of an explosion. BARTLET I want the FEMA director and the Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in here right away. Get CNN to stop running rumors. I'll make a statement in 15 minutes. KATE Sir, you really don't want to notify the public until there's a plan in place. There could be widespread panic. BARTLET Then we'd better get moving on a plan, because I'm making a statement in 15 minutes. C.J. Yes, sir. KATE Thank you, Mr. President. CUT TO: EXT. - CAMPAIGN EVENT - NIGHT WEDNESDAY NIGHT, 9:21 PM TAMPA, FLORIDA Santos and Helen are speaking at a "Rock the Vote" event. SANTOS Yes, we worry about what's happening in the culture: we have two young children. But censorship is like saying I can't have a steak because a baby can't chew it. Let's be careful. Yeah? We pan to where Josh and Donna are watching the event. DONNA He's good tonight. JOSH As long as he keeps pivoting to the issues, I'm fine. AUDIENCE MAN #1 You told Rolling Stone you like Bob Dylan. I was just wondering: what's your favorite album? SANTOS My favorite Bob Dylan album? I guess I should say Highway 61 Revisited and then we could just ease into transportation policy, but really, it's Blonde on Blonde. Helen looks at him funny as the audience laughs. SANTOS Believe me, there's no policy implications to that. DONNA Did he just imply... JOSH Jay Leno's going to have field day. DONNA No big issues captivated the voters. You're surprised it came down to geyser rock trivia? Bram walks up and hands Josh a piece of paper. JOSH Wrap it up. Bram walks away. DONNA What? JOSH There was a nuclear accident in California. Get to a television, laptop. Get any details you can. She walks away. CUT TO: INT. - LIMO - MOTORCADE - NIGHT 9:23 PM FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA BRUNO Santos is doing that "Rock the Vote" event in Tampa. Probably pandering like mad to a bunch of preteens. VINICK There better be some post-teens. You're sending me there tomorrow. BRUNO I'm sending you because you talk like a President, not some latter day, Mick Jagger-in-Chief. Bruno's phone rings and he answers it. BRUNO [into phone] Yeah, Bruno. VINICK I could tell them about my psychedelic phase when I wore brown socks on the Senate floor. BRUNO [into phone] Call me the second you get confirmation. He hangs up. VINICK Confirmation on what? BRUNO A problem with a nuclear plant in California. San Andreo. There might be an explosion. VINICK San Andreo? BRUNO Yeah, it's near San Diego. VINICK Yeah, I know where it is. BRUNO What? VINICK I pushed the licensing commission to get San Andreo up and running 25 years ago. BRUNO Pushed? VINICK I helped get that plant online. SMASH CUT TO: MAIN TITLES. END TEASER. * * * ACT ONE FADE IN: INT. - OUTER OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT 9:26 PM C.J. is on the phone at Debbie's desk. A news report is going about the incident. Kate is also on the phone, she at Charlie's desk. Both conversations are indecipherable. They hang up simultaneously and turn to see a news report. ANCHOR We've received numerous reports of a loud explosion as well as Arab tourists seen near the facility in the last two days. KATE How can they run these crazy rumors? C.J. The only thing certain in cases like this: first reports are always wrong. They go into the Oval Office where Bartlet is meeting with several people. BARTLET How we handle this in the next 90 minutes will determine whether there's panic within 100 miles of every nuclear plant in this country. We don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Harry? NRC CHAIR HARRY The coolant in the reactor has dropped at least a foot, exposing an eighth of the fuel rods. BARTLET How can we get cool water in there. HARRY They're running a temporary feed line to bypass the broken valve while they try to figure out what's wrong. BARTLET In the meantime? HARRY They're activating an emergency heat removal pump. The hope is that it will lower temperatures enough to prevent a meltdown. FEMA DIRECTOR There's a second problem. HARRY Yes. Another valve is stuck open. With the temperatures rising in the reactor, an awful lot of radioactive steam is being generated and it's pouring into the containment building. C.J. Are we worried about a radiation leak? HARRY We're worried they may have to pump radioactive gases into an auxiliary building which is not built to hold them. One poorly welded seam... BARTLET How much radiation are we talking about? HARRY It's unclear. But administrators at CalVista Gas & Electric... KATE They run the San Andreo plant. HARRY Yes. They believe any leak would pose little or no threat to the public health. BARTLET Without knowing how big it might be. C.J. It's chaos over there. I couldn't even get them on the phone. BARTLET I want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take command of that plant and I want to evacuate the area. C.J. It's a state and local matter. BARTLET Get the governor of California right away. NANCY Yes, sir. FEMA DIRECTOR Governor Tillman wants to wait until we're absolutely sure it's necessary. KATE He'll argue that rash, messy, night-time evacuation could be worse... NANCY The Governor's on the line. BARTLET Thank you. He picks up the phone. BARTLET Gabe, you have to evacuate San Andreo. ... We're all working off sketchy information. ... 'Cause, trust me on this, we would rather have a few fender-benders on the I-5 than a generation of babies with thyroid cancer. ... My FEMA Director is right here. He'll coordinate with your state emergency services and I'm going to declare a major federal disaster. You're going to have every federal resource you need. ... We're going to get through this. He hangs up. C.J. Mr. President, with all the levels of government involved in this, maybe now is a good time to designate a czar - a single, point person to oversee all... BARTLET You're looking at him. CUT TO: INT. - VINICK-SULLIVAN HQ - NIGHT Vinick is in his office. He is on the phone, trying to get through. He gets a busy signal. Bob and Bruno come in. BOB We talked to the Senate office. BRUNO They're reaching out to the Governor's office. Regional officials... BOB Hundreds of press requests... VINICK I want to issue a statement supporting the Governor's evacuation plan. BOB We should couple it with a call for an investigation. This has to have been a regulatory failure. BRUNO We want to be careful, though. Everyone knows the Senator is pro-nuclear. He said it in the first debate. BOB That's why we have to act defensively. The DNC's got to know he lobbied to get that plant open. Vinick picks up the phone again and dials. He again gets a busy signal. BRUNO Defensive, but not destructive. What do you want? Vinick hangs up. BRUNO Jamie and your grandkids are in San Diego? VINICK Phone lines are jammed, cell phones, everything. BOB We'll put out a statement supporting the governor. He and Bruno leave. Vinick tries again on the phone with still no luck. CUT TO: INT. - LOBBY - WHITE HOUSE - NIGHT Will is walking in. His phone is going off. He drops it as he meets C.J. She picks it up for him. C.J. The President wants to make a statement in the next few minutes. WILL Saying what? C.J. Whatever we can figure out in the next few minutes. WILL You wouldn't believe the rumors that are bouncing around here: that there's a fire near the reactor and it's about to blow. C.J. Not exactly. WILL That we're shutting down every nuclear plant with the same design. C.J. Not the dumbest of ideas, but no. Look, the press are going to talk to everybody, they're going to speculate about everything. I need you to grab hold of the information flow. WILL I have no information. C.J. Welcome to the club. Let's start with that statement. CUT TO: INT. - OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT Bartlet is talking with FEMA Director and Harry. They are walking out of the office. BARTLET What are the odds this leads to a meltdown? HARRY A meltdown isn't when one thing goes wrong, it's when 12 things go wrong. BARTLET There must be 6 million people living within a hundred miles of that plant. FEMA DIRECTOR Based on prevailing winds, FEMA recommends we evacuate 15 down, 6 and 9 around. It'll cover all of San Andreo. WILL 15 down? C.J. 15 miles between 6 and 9 like a clock. FEMA DIRECTOR But state emergency services want to do just 10 down, 6 and 9 around: the legal minimum. BARTLET Tell them if they're fine with 10 miles, the Governor and I will be setting up a command post at 10.1 miles from the plant. We'd like them to join us there. [to Will] Is the press ready for my statement? WILL Readier than we are. C.J. It's not like we have much to tell them. FEMA DIRECTOR It sounds like they're more comfortable with 15 miles. CUT TO: INT. - BRIEFING ROOM - NIGHT 9:34 PM Bartlet walks into the room and to the podium. The press stands as he does. BARTLET Good evening. He indicates for them to sit. BARTLET 32 minutes ago, there was a mechanical problem at the nuclear generating plant in San Andreo, California which is causing the reactor's core to overheat. There's been no explosion. There's no indication of terrorism or foul play. Engineers are working to address the problem right now. Governor Tillman has begun an evacuation and I'm declaring a major federal disaster and dispatching every possible resource. We don't have all the facts. You will have them as soon as we do but every level of government is working on this. No matter what happens, we're going to handle it. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT WILLIAM D. MOSELEY HOTEL TAMPA, FLORIDA Helen and Santos are sitting on the couch watching the news reports about the accident. Also in the room are Josh, Donna, and Bram. ANCHOR So what they're doing is bypassing the broken valve and running a new pipeline to get cool water into that reactor so it doesn't meltdown. Federal officials believe they can avoid the worst, but I can tell you... DONNA I don't understand why they put a nuclear plant so close to a population center. SANTOS They're all near population centers. Otherwise, they'd lose too much power in transmission. DONNA So the whole idea is kind of crazy. SANTOS Kind of. HELEN You should give a big speech on that. Put out a whole new energy plan. BRAM Or point out that Vinick's plan glows in the dark. HELEN It's true. Vinick's for nuclear power. You fought against him for years. DONNA We can get every environmental group for a press conference. BRAM Skip Oregon, campaign along the evacuation route, give out bottled water. JOSH Can I talk to you? SANTOS Let me know when they get the pipeline to the core. He and Josh stand and walk out into the hallway. SANTOS Where's Leo? JOSH He's on a charter to Ohio. He's going to call in when he lands. SANTOS Get them to cool it on the political chatter. I don't want us holding rallies on the Hindenburg. JOSH Yeah. I'm going to cancel our events tomorrow. We can't be exploiting this. SANTOS Yeah. JOSH And I don't think we're going to have to. You're anti-nuclear. Vinick's got a long history on the other side. This is all upside for us. I say we go completely dark. Let the press go after Vinick on their own so they can't accuse us of playing politics. SANTOS I'm fine doing nothing on this issue. JOSH I mean nothing on any issue: no speeches, no press releases. We stay right here. SANTOS See which way the wind blows. JOSH And what's blowing in it. CUT TO: INT. - SITUATION ROOM - NIGHT 10:28PM Bartlet walks into the room. Several people are already there. BARTLET Have we cooled down the reactor's core? C.J. The heat removal pump hasn't had much impact: a 20-degree drop but we're talking 700 degrees in there. HARRY Hang on. We've got a temporary coolant line to the core. There is a pause. Nobody says or does anything. BARTLET I don't see anyone popping champagne corks. I thought if we got a line in there we'd avoid a meltdown. FEMA DIRECTOR Radioactive steam is still gushing into the containment building. They had to start pumping it into the auxiliary building. BARTLET It wasn't designed to hold it. C.J. No. IT can accommodate up to 50 pounds of pressure per square inch. It's now at 34psi and rising. The coolant won't be enough to stop it. The fuel rods give off hydrogen gas. FEMA DIRECTOR Which is extremely explosive; if we get near maximum pressure levels... HARRY The containment building might be able to withstand that kind of a blast. The auxiliary building cannot. BARTLET So? HARRY Unless we fix the valve soon, we have to vent radioactive gas into the atmosphere to relieve the pressure. BARTLET How many people are still in San Andreo? FEMA DIRECTOR About 30,000. BARTLET I don't want to release any radiation until everyone's been evacuated. What's the alternative? HARRY An explosion that spreads radiation all over Southern California; maybe parts of Arizona and Nevada, sir. BARTLET How much would we have to vent? HARRY We think it will be within EPA's standard parameters for an acceptable dosage. FEMA DIRECTOR It's Santa Ana season in Southern California. C.J. Which could be good if the winds stay consistent; the radiation could drift out over the ocean. BARTLET How do we speed up the evacuation? C.J. Tell people we're about to spill radiation into the air, good chance it will speed it up. BARTLET How much time before we reach 50psi? HARRY Maybe an hour. BARTLET Who would give the order? HARRY We've taken charge of the plant, sir. That would be you. FADE OUT. END ACT ONE. * * * ACT TWO FADE IN: INT. - COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE - NIGHT 10:41 PM Will is speaking with the spokespeople from several different agencies. WILL DOE, EPA, NOA... okay, let's get started. I wanted all the agency spokespeople in one place so we could... yes, Blyden? SPOKESPERSON BLYDEN Do you have an update for us? WILL Radioactive steam has been spilling into the containment building, so much that they've had to pump it into another building. The other building can only hold 50 pounds of pressure per inch. It's now at 38. We may have to vent radiation into the atmosphere to avoid a big bang. Those in the room start calling for Will's attention. WILL Guys, I don't have time to do this by Socratic Method. I called you all here because each of your agencies is going to be involved in this but no one, not a single one of you, is going to talk to the press. All right? No one. SPOKESPERSON #1 I've got a call list ten pages long. WILL I can assure you, they've all called my office too. There will be one briefer: me. BLYDEN What if this turns out to be the administration's fault? We can't withhold information from the public. WILL We won't be withholding anything. We're trying to maintain calm; make it look like we know what we're doing, so there will be one voice: the dulcet tones of Will Bailey. Get your souvenir programs in the lobby. SPOKESPERSON #2 What about political questions? Vinick's the pro-nuke guy. In the first debate... WILL There will be one briefer, and I won't be answering political questions. They again raise their hands for his attention. CUT TO: INT. - HALLWAY - WHITE HOUSE - NIGHT Bartlet and Kate are walking and talking as Bartlet heads toward the Sit Room. KATE It's almost morning in Kazakhstan, sir. The polls open in two hours. BARTLET Busy night for you. KATE It's always morning somewhere. BARTLET We have election monitors on the ground? KATE Through the OSCE. China needs to see this as a genuine democracy, not some Russian puppet government out to screw them out of their oil interests. China's got troops along the border. If they think it's a phony election rigged to protect the Russian-installed incumbent... BARTLET They cross the borders, so does Russia, and we have a war on our hands. KATE I'll have regular updates for you. Bartlet walks into the Sit Room and Kate walks away. BARTLET So, we're at 46psi? C.J. We don't have much time to relieve the pressure in that auxiliary building. BARTLET Where are we on the evacuation? C.J. Maybe a third of the people in the evacuation zone are out. At least 700,000 in the region are pouring onto the freeway. BARTLET 700,000? FEMA DIRECTOR That's a conservative estimate. C.J. Plus there aren't enough buses and vans to take care of at-risk populations: seniors, people with disabilities. The governor wants you to activate military support from Camp Pendleton. BARTLET So ordered. Do we have a direct line to the control room in San Andreo? HARRY The Superintendent for Operations is on now. C.J. We've got helicopters overhead to get an immediate reading to make sure we're within the acceptable dosage. BARTLET Which is? FEMA DIRECTOR 500 milligrams. BARTLET Is there any way to wait for support from Camp Pendleton? I don't like the idea of the elderly and the disabled taking the brunt of this. HARRY The longer we wait, the more chance of an explosion and God knows how much radiation shooting into the atmosphere. BARTLET [pause] Vent it now. HARRY Open the stack. MAN [on phone] Opening auxiliary stack. BARTLET What do we mean by "acceptable dosage" anyway? HARRY It's the amount the body can safely absorb through direct exposure. But radiation also enters the surface layers of the soil where it's absorbed by plants and insects and enters the food supply. It seeps into water sources. When it does enter the body, sometimes it kills cells instantly. Sometimes it forms damaged cells. BARTLET Cancer? HARRY Yes, sir. MAN [on phone] Stack open; steady at 1200 reps. BARTLET 1200? C.J. Inside the stack. Once it's in the air it'll disperse. Anything below 500 and we're fine. FEMA DIRECTOR 569 milligrams above the stack. BARTLET We have to announce the number. HARRY It'll make the evacuation 50 times harder. BARTLET Can we take another reading? FEMA DIRECTOR Steady at 561. BARTLET It's more than we consider safe. We have to let the people know. HARRY Anyone who's not on the freeway will be looking for an on-ramp. C.J. Make the freeway one-way. FEMA DIRECTOR No one feels comfortable making that choice. Santa Ana winds could shift at any time. BARTLET We're spilling radiation into the sky, people are jamming the freeways, and we don't know what direction they should drive? Tell Will to announce the number. C.J. Yes, sir. CUT TO: INT. - BRIEFING ROOM - NIGHT 11:47 PM Will is briefing the press. FEMALE REPORTER So, you're saying the radiation release was at an unsafe level? WILL No, I'm saying it was slightly above EPA's standards for an acceptable dosage. MALE REPORTER The government believes it's safe? WILL I didn't say that. I'm just trying to state the facts. REPORTER WALTER An estimated 1 million people are fleeing Southern California. Isn't the President worried about public panic? WILL He's worried about public safety. He's urging those outside the evacuation zone to stay home so those in the zone can get out. FEMALE REPORTER Will, is the EPA going to brief on the levels of radiation? WILL I'm briefing, on that and everything else. FEMALE REPORTER What if we need more information? WILL Ask me and I'll get it. TIMES REPORTER Assistant Secretary Blyden at HHS says the weather agencies are worried the winds will shift, that people could be evacuating the wrong way. WILL Blyden said that? TIMES REPORTER Yes, that NOA and NERIC... WILL I'll get into it. He closes his folder and walks away from the podium. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL HALLWAY - NIGHT Josh is walking through the hallway. He sees a TV which is showing footage from the debate, in which Vinick is defending nuclear power. Bram walks up. BRAM They're playing Vinick's debate clip a lot. JOSH Yeah, starting to. Yeah. BRAM Site Advance wants to know if we're scrubbing the whole Oregon trip. JOSH The Congressman doesn't want to politicize a tragedy. BRAM We don't want to do a press statement in the morning; a few interviews? JOSH No interviews, no statements; not from us, not from the DNC, not from anyone we control. BRAM We could make a lot of hay out of this. Vinick's the pro-nuke poster child. Donna walks up. JOSH No hay, no posters; the Oregon trip is off. DONNA You may want to hang on to your pitchfork. She shows him a folder. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT Santos is on the phone. SANTOS I'm behind you on all this. ... All right, bye. He hangs up. HELEN How's the governor? SANTOS Nervous. HELEN I don't see why. Any angry constituents will just be vaporized anyway, right? He says nothing. HELEN Oh, am I the only one left in the family with a sense of humor? Josh walks in. SANTOS Anything new? JOSH How about something old? HELEN What is it? JOSH Vinick lobbied for federal approval for San Andreo 25 years ago. SANTOS When is this going to break? JOSH I don't know. The press is kind of preoccupied. HELEN We don't want to nudge them along? JOSH We could put it out, yeah. But then he could hit us back for playing politics with a mushroom cloud. If the press finds it on its own, it'll be 900 times bigger. HELEN And what if they don't find it? JOSH They will. HELEN This isn't politics, this is policy. Those places are unsafe. It's a legitimate point. Santos hears something on the TV and walks toward it to hear it better. ANCHOR In New Mexico, in Arizona, in Colorado, people are getting in their cars and driving east. And while higher than acceptable levels of radiation drift into the air, the White House won't say if we're past risk of a meltdown or explosion. SANTOS Hide these under your mattress. For now. Josh gets up and leaves, taking the papers with him. CUT TO: INT. - HALLWAY - WHITE HOUSE - NIGHT 12:21 AM Bartlet and C.J. are walking and talking. BARTLET I don't like hearing the word "meltdown" on cable news. 12 things have not gone wrong yet. By my count, we're barely at 6 or 7. C.J. They're still trying everything to fix the valves. BARTLET Who's they? C.J. Our engineers plus their engineers; lots of engineers. BARTLET Radioactive steam is going to build up in that damned auxiliary building again. They have walked into the Oval Office where Harry, the FEMA Director and others are waiting. HARRY 11psi and climbing. WILL The more immediate concern is panic. The freeways are like parking lots. FOX is running a story about a family in Michigan that's leaving the country. BARTLET How soon can I visit San Andreo without diverting resources from the evacuation? FEMA DIRECTOR I could get FEMA's okay for you to travel tomorrow, assuming that the valves are fixed, but there's substantial risk... BARTLET Tell the press now I'm flying out tomorrow. HARRY Sir, steam is still building up. If we have to vent... BARTLET If people know I'm going, maybe they'll stop buying one-way tickets to Norway. C.J. What about Senator Vinick? It's his home state. We always invite the senators to join you for disaster trips. WILL Have we ever had a situation where one's a major-Party nominee? C.J. And if we take Vinick, do we take Santos? Maybe we're better off... BARTLET Vinick's senator from California; He's on the plane if he wants to be. Set up a call with Matt Santos. CUT TO: INT. - VINICK HQ - NIGHT 1:02 AM Bruno and Bob are watching a news clip from the debate. BOB Fifth time this hour. They start walking. BOB You know how many press requests we've got? BRUNO A bunch. BOB Every network, every major newspaper, plus Japanese TV, Internet radio; there's probably requests from homing pigeons in here. We have to say something. BRUNO We support the governor's evacuation. We'll say it in Japanese. BOB The Senator, on camera; we have to give them fresh video or they keep running that debate clip. He should whack federal regulators. BRUNO Bob. BOB No, the regulations are too lax. It's practically scout's honor. BRUNO We're in a great big, glass house. We do not throw the first stone. BOB Okay, a moratorium on all new nuclear plant construction. BRUNO He cannot retreat from what he said in the debate. BOB They're killing us out there. And they still don't know our guy helped get that plant approved in the first place. BRUNO Bob. Bob, I know Josh Lyman. There is a reason he's camped out in Florida, the swinging-est of swing states. Santos is gonna whack us. Then we hit him back for politicizing a national disaster. BOB That's a big roll of the dice on one weak pair of knees. BRUNO Trust me. Josh has the political equivalent of Turret's Syndrome. He can't help himself. Bruno's phone starts ringing. BRUNO [cont.] We wait for his next spasm and then we strike back. He answers his phone. BRUNO [into phone] Yeah, Bruno. ... Yeah. [to Bob] C.J. [into phone] Yeah, I'll tell him. He hangs up. BRUNO The President wants the Senator to fly with him on Air Force One tomorrow to San Andreo. He walks away. CUT TO: INT. - OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT Bartlet is on the phone. Nancy is there. BARTLET Yes, Mr. Mayor, there's coolant running into the reactor now. ... Fingers crossed. He hangs up. BARTLET I thought a degree in economics was plenty for this job. My kingdom for a plumbing license. NANCY I have Matt Santos on the line. BARTLET Thanks. She leaves and Bartlet picks up the phone and starts talking to Santos. BARTLET Matt, you look great out there... when you're actually, you know, out there. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - CONTINUOUS Santos is on the phone with Bartlet. Helen is sitting, listening to Santos's end of the conversation. SANTOS Just holding tight, Mr. President. Praying for the people of San Andreo. CUT TO: INT. - OVAL OFFICE - CONTINUOUS BARTLET Matt, I'm taking Arnie Vinick to San Andreo. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - CONTINUOUS BARTLET [VO] I know this could help him politically. Santos sits, obviously taken aback by the news. SANTOS Yes, sir. BARTLET [VO] Senior Senator from California; if I do anything else, I'll be playing games with a national emergency. SANTOS Well, you have to do what you think is best. Helen looks over at this, looking concerned. BARTLET [VO] Keep me in your prayers too. SANTOS Yes, Mr. President, I will. CUT TO: INT. - OVAL OFFICE - CONTINUOUS BARTLET Thanks. He hangs up. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - CONTINUOUS Santos hangs up and looks at Helen as if he is upset. FADE OUT. END ACT TWO. * * * ACT THREE FADE IN: INT. - VINICK'S OFFICE - VINICK HQ - NIGHT Vinick, Bruno, and Bob are talking. BRUNO It's an enormous gift. Jed Bartlet is our radiation shied. BOB Now we're banking on a Democrat helping us. VINICK Is Santos coming? BRUNO No. Your state, not his. BOB What if news of your lobbying for San Andreo breaks while you're standing next to the President? BRUNO This is how we survive it. BOB Not if the story breaks while we're right there. BRUNO You don't get it; Santos is shut out of this trip. Josh has to attack us now. BOB Flying down there links us to the disaster and just hoping Josh's blood sugar spikes isn't any kind of... VINICK I represent the state. I'm taking that seat on Air Force One. CUT TO: INT. - OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT Bartlet is at his desk writing on some papers when C.J. knocks and comes in from her office. BARTLET What is it? C.J. The temporary pipeline that runs cool water to the core: it usually carries hot water, not cold. BARTLET Okay? C.J. Imagine heating a glass to 700 degrees and then pouring ice water in it. BARTLET The pipe's cracking. C.J. And the water level around the fuel rods is dropping again. They've tried everything to fix the valves from the control room. We have to send men into the containment building to fix them by hand. BARTLET I'm guessing the radiation in there is above the acceptable dosage. C.J. Five times more, even with anti-contamination gear. BARTLET Who would we be sending in? C.J. Two mechanical engineers from the Nuclear Regulatory Mission. BARTLET Civilian engineers? There isn't some military team, some Pentagon specialist we could deploy? C.J. This is their job, sir. BARTLET You think when they started engineering school, they imagined the President would ask them to risk their lives by prying open a piece of pipe? Send them in. She leaves and Bartlet sits back in his chair. CUT TO: INT. - BRIEFING ROOM - NIGHT 1:15 AM Will walks into the room and up to the podium. WILL I have a couple announcements to make. The emergency secondary pipeline, the temporary line that is bringing cool water to the reactor's core, is cracking and degrading. Technicians are working to run new pipe, and NRC engineers will be entering the containment building to try to fix the valves manually. FEMALE REPORTER They must be taking an enormous risk just by walking in there. WILL It's a very dangerous work environment, but they're trained for it. WALTER Is more radioactive gas building up in the auxiliary structure? WILL We're hoping we can fix the underlying problem before that's an issue. WALTER You'd tell us if we were on the verge of an explosion? WILL I promised you the facts and you're going to get them. TIMES REPORTER The AP is saying these kind of mechanical problems show clear Regulatory failures on the part of the Bartlet administration. WILL There are lots of people who think they know what's going on. Let me tell you who does: he briefs from this podium. MALE REPORTER This isn't the Kremlin, Will. How do we know you're not covering something? WILL Second announcement: tomorrow morning, the President will travel to a command center outside the evacuation zone. He'll be accompanied by the California Congressional Delegation. FEMALE REPORTER He believes it's safe? WILL The immediate danger is inside the zone. WALTER Does this mean Senator Vinick's going? WILL He's a member of the California delegation. FEMALE REPORTER What about Congressman Santos? WILL No other delegations are going. The reporters start shouting for his attention. He closes his folder and walks off the stage. CUT TO: INT. - HALLWAY - OUTSIDE BRIEFING ROOM - CONTINUOUS Will has walked out of the briefing room. Blyden is waiting for him. BLYDEN Tough crowd in there. WILL You told Time we were worried about wind shifts? BLYDEN I got that from your office. WILL Which is why my office has taken you off the talking points distribution list. BLYDEN I need those to do my job. WILL Not anymore. You're being transferred. You no longer speak for this government. BLYDEN For telling people the truth? WILL For telling people something which can only cause further panic. It doesn't matter if it's true. It doesn't matter if I've already said it. We're trying to prevent mass hysteria in a climate in which even the truth can be misinterpreted, so we speak with one voice. You're lucky you still have a job. CUT TO: INT. - HALLWAY - HOTEL - NIGHT Donna is walking and walks past a group of reporters who try to get her attention. DONNA No comment. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT We see Josh take a basketball and throw it at one of the dry-erase boards in the room. Donna walks in. DONNA I guess you've heard the President is taking Vinick to California. JOSH Yeah. DONNA It's his home state. There's a protocol to these things, right? JOSH Well, let's hope everyone uses the correct fork. DONNA It could hurt Vinick. He's flying into the fog. JOSH He gets to be statesmen, healer. And when is the press going to figure out he got the plant open. DONNA Cable news is still running the debate clip. Bram walks in. BRAM More press requests, plus... Josh takes some papers out of his hand. JOSH Denver, Colorado, DNC... these are all for me? BRAM Yeah. They're wondering why we're holed up in Florida instead of mobilizing the whole party to slam Vinick. JOSH Prevailing winds. BRAM Even the Advance guys are begging us to get off the dime. JOSH Tell Advance to stick to losing my luggage. BRAM Vinick's coasting toward his bipartisan buddy weekend with the President. The Advance guys are right: if we don't take him on... Josh is obviously upset and storms out of the room. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - SANTOS'S ROOM - NIGHT Josh walks in. Helen and Santos are watching the news. HELEN They just sent two engineers into the containment building. It's like putting them in a microwave set on high. JOSH We're getting a few press requests. SANTOS By a few, you mean... JOSH A million gajillion. SANTOS Okay, that's not a real number. JOSH I'm not talking radio for yonkers. Every morning show wants you for their lead segment. Every cable... SANTOS Are you changing your mind on this? JOSH I don't know. It's just, the second Vinick gets on Air Force One, the second he has Jed Bartlet's arm around him, it's like a mega dose of political penicillin. SANTOS One day with the President does not erase three decades of pushing plutonium. HELEN Josh is right: it gives Vinick a chance to absolve himself. JOSH If the press finds out he lobbied for San Andreo before he gets on that plane, there goes his get out of jail free card. SANTOS If we do anything, if our fingerprints are anywhere on that... JOSH Maybe we get a third party to do it. HELEN Why hasn't anyone linked Vinick to that plant? SANTOS Because they just sent two engineers into the containment building; the press are clogging the freeways to. JOSH If it comes out after that trip, after they become the Martin & Lewis of disaster management... Bram walks in. BRAM A couple of network presidents called; direct appeals to do their morning shows. SANTOS You were right four hours ago, you're still right now. CUT TO: INT. - CONFERENCE ROOM - VINICK HQ - NIGHT Bruno and Bob are looking at some weblogs for some sign of the report. BRUNO Nothing on Drudge, nothing on The Note, nothing on the wires; I don't know what Josh is waiting for. BOB The Senator has to say something on camera before he gets on that plane. BRUNO No he doesn't. BOB Sympathy for the region, sympathy for the Red Skins; I don't care what he says. You want that debate clip to air another 6,000 times? BRUNO Josh hits us, we call it bare-knuckled exploitation of a tragedy and we let the President do the heavy lifting. BOB The President? BRUNO Yeah. We get him to say it right there, in California, that accidents happen. BOB You think the President will defend us on nuclear power? BRUNO A nuclear disaster on his watch? He'll jump at the chance. He'll be defending himself too. CUT TO: INT. - SITUATION ROOM - NIGHT 1:28 AM Bartlet, C.J., Harry, and FEMA Director are waiting around the phone as the engineers try to fix the problem. BARTLET Did you talk to the head of the Red Cross? C.J. 20 minutes ago. BARTLET They need more potassium iodide in the shelters. FEMA can work it through HHS. C.J. We took care of it. MAN [on phone] Handcock's working. The valve is turning. BARTLET What happened? HARRY The engineers opened the coolant valve. Once they make sure there's no overflow, we can pull them out. FEMA DIRECTOR What about the relief valve? Radioactive steam is still pouring into the containment building. HARRY It's already been 17 minutes. I didn't want them in there any longer than 15 minutes. FEMA DIRECTOR They shut the other valve, we're out of the woods. HARRY It'll take too long. This is an extremely toxic environment. C.J. If more gas spills out of that structure, so is most of Southern California. FEMA DIRECTOR Plus, they're already in there. You want to expose another team? BARTLET How much longer will it take? HARRY Five, maybe ten minutes. BARTLET Ask them to try and shut down the other valve. HARRY [into phone] Ask them to move onto the relief valve. Kate comes into the Sit Room. KATE Excuse me, Mr. President. Kate, C.J., and Bartlet go into the outer room. KATE Polls just closed in Kazakhstan. The Russian-installed incumbent... BARTLET Tarimov. KATE ...he's been declared the winner. BARTLET Please tell me they counted the votes first. KATE Our election monitors are reporting wide-spread harassment: beatings, mass arrests of civic activists. BARTLET We barely got China to hold their troops by scheduling this election. Someone hands C.J. a note. BARTLET [cont.] This could lead to open hostilities. C.J. We've already got them: a pro-democracy riot's broken out in the Kazakh capitol. ENGINEER [on phone] There's a corrosion build-up on the valve stem. We're not getting enough torque. Bartlet looks between the two rooms, contemplating. CUT TO: INT. - VINICK'S OFFICE - VINNICK'S HQ - NIGHT Bruno walks into the office. VINICK They finally pulled out the engineers. 32 minutes and they couldn't stop the steam leak. BRUNO Did you see my memo about your press availability with the President tomorrow? VINICK Bob wants me to make a statement from the Capitol in the morning before we get on Air Force One. BRUNO Yeah. Senator... VINICK You want me to get the President accidents happen, that's fine. But Bob is right: I can't wait another seven hours to show my face in public. BRUNO You want to show your face and say what? You've been wrong your whole career? Nuclear is peachy keen while a million are on the run? VINICK This wasn't a failure of nuclear technology. This was a regulatory screw up. BRUNO You point fingers now and it will look like you are trying to avoid taking any responsibility for this. VINICK You know why Europe's greenhouse emissions are so much lower than ours? Nuclear power: it's totally emissions-free. BRUNO Sure, but... VINICK You know how many from oil refinery explosions? From coal soot in the air? Tens of thousands. And not one from a nuclear power anything in thirty years. BRUNO Okay, you're right. But that is still not the... VINICK Every time they show that debate clip it looks like I ran into that plant myself and spilt uranium on the floor. BRUNO Santos is going to hit us. You have to wait. That is how we change the story. VINICK I'm going to give the press some footage besides that debate clip. BRUNO I need you to keep your political hat on. VINICK 31 states with nuclear plants; we don't know how many voters will be living in California on Election Day. My lobbying for San Andreo is out there like a ticking time bomb. We can't control the politics of this, not even close. I'll talk to the President about his speech, but I'm the senator from California and I'm going to make a statement before I get on that plane. CUT TO: INT. - OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT 4:25 AM C.J. knocks and comes in from her office. C.J. Both the engineers who were in the containment building, they've been hospitalized for radiation sickness. One has slipped into a coma. Sir, they knew the danger better than us. You weren't wrong to... BARTLET No one ever told me their names. C.J. James Cook is the one in the... James Cook and Mark LaRoche. We'll get call sheets for the families. The pressure in the auxiliary building is up to 28psi. You may need to authorize a second team to try to shut the valve manually. If you like, you can deputize the NRC Chair to make the call. BARTLET 15 minutes and out. C.J. If they don't solve the problem... BARTLET 15 minutes and out. C.J. Of course, but if they can't solve the problem, we may be looking at another venting of radiation and the Santa Anas don't stay consistent for long. If the sea winds push them north... BARTLET Call the governor. Make a contingency plan to widen the evacuation. And I want updated weather models every half hour. C.J. You weren't wrong to keep them in there, Mr. President. FADE OUT. END ACT THREE. * * * ACT FOUR FADE IN: INT. - SENATE PRESS ROOM - DAY 6:49 AM Vinick is walking in to make his statement before he leaves for California. Bob walks in behind him to meet Bruno along the way. He stops and they start talking. BRUNO Still nothing from Santos? BOB No press advisories, they haven't reserved any rooms for press conferences. BRUNO Josh must be strapped to a gurney with a gag in his mouth. This is a mistake. Vinick has stepped to the podium and begins the statement. VINICK Good morning. We're all struck by the difficult events in San Andreo. I've been in constant touch with the governor's office and I hope, as we all do, that the evacuation is only a precaution. SENATE REPORTER Do you still support nuclear power? Bruno, on the side, whispers to himself. BRUNO Finish the statement. VINICK And I hope that the situation will be resolved quickly and safely. MARK Your family is in the region. Don't you question what you said in the debate? VINICK My family is not the issue. SENATE REPORTER You didn't answer the question. Are you still pro-nuclear? VINICK Nuclear power didn't break those valves. To blame nuclear technology itself for whatever mess happened... Federal Regulators are the ones who fell down on the job. You can start a fire with a match, too, you know. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL ROOM - CONTINUOUS Santos, Helen, Josh, Donna, and Bram are watching the press release. REPORTER [on TV] You're suggesting this is the Bartlet Administration's fault? JOSH He just did. HELEN And he strapped himself to that reactor. VINICK [on TV] This isn't the time to point fingers. This is a time for national unity which is why the President and I are traveling to that region later this morning. Thank you. Santos leans back, terse about what's happening. CUT TO: INT. - SENATE PRESS ROOM - CONTINUOUS Vinick grabs his things and walks away from the podium. CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL - WAR ROOM - DAY Josh walks in and talks to Donna. JOSH The President is wheels-up in an hour. DONNA Tray tables and all. JOSH I want you to lead a couple of reporters to those documents about Vinick and San Andreo. DONNA I thought you didn't want our fingerprints on it. JOSH Just drop hints. Ask leading questions. Do it off the record. DONNA That's going to get out. You're the one who didn't want... JOSH Once the President bear hugs Vinick, the game is over. DONNA Does the Congressman know about this? JOSH Just go. DONNA Leading questions? JOSH Yeah, or we'll blow the biggest chance we have at winning this thing we're ever going to get. She nods and walks out of the room. CUT TO: INT. - HALLWAY - WHITE HOUSE - DAY Will is walking out and reporters are there to question him as he walks. WALTER Isn't Vinick right? How can this not be a failure of Bartlet's regulators? WILL We don't even know the cause of the accident. I'm not going to speculate. FEMALE REPORTER You can't deny that the NRC leaves tons of inspection procedures up to the plants themselves. WILL Five minutes until the motorcade leaves. I'll see you on the plane. Will walks out to meet C.J., who is on the phone. C.J. [into phone] I can't talk about the Armenian genocide. I know it's important, but it's non-binding. Right now I only have time for things that could spontaneously combust. She hangs up. C.J. You ready? WILL To fly into a massive cloud of radiation while the rest of the country's making hats out of tin foil? C.J. Yeah, that was more of a rhetorical question. You think we're flying into a massive cloud of radiation? WILL I was dramatizing a point. Maybe. CUT TO: INT. - LOBBY - HOTEL - DAY Donna steps out of the elevator and into the lobby where a few people are seated including a reporter who is typing on a computer. She walks over and sits next to the reporter. REPORTER I thought you weren't talking to the press today. DONNA I was wondering if I could interest you in a little mumbling and whispering. REPORTER Biggest political story in six months - I don't care if you start humming off-key. DONNA You think this is the biggest... REPORTER Vinick's lobbying for that San Andreo plant? Make your quote good, it'll be front page, column six. DONNA Yeah, sorry. Not talking to the press today. She gets up and leaves. CUT TO: INT. - BARTLET'S OFFICE - AIR FORCE ONE - DAY 8:15 AM Bartlet is seated, looking over some papers. C.J. knocks and comes in. C.J. Excuse me, Mr. President. Senator Vinick has asked for a moment. BARTLET Sure. C.J. walks out and shows Vinick in. VINICK Mr. President. BARTLET Arnie. VINICK Thanks for bringing me along. BARTLET Standard protocol. VINICK Well, I appreciate it. I thought we might want to coordinate our statements for the press availability. BARTLET You're expecting me to bash myself, too? VINICK That wasn't aimed at you. BARTLET Federal regulators? I think a few of them work for me. VINICK Due respect, two broken valves and a radiation leak say some of them should look for other work. BARTLET Where's your bill to improve federal oversight? Senate leader on the issue, let's have your bill. I'll sign it now. VINICK You've had eight years to do something about it. BARTLET You've had 25. VINICK I'm not the one who manages it. Nuclear power itself is safe. BARTLET Take a nuclear reaction 20 times more powerful than Hiroshima, run it through a power plant every day near families; what management would negate the risk? VINICK Risk is everywhere. People get into car accidents. BARTLET And when they do, they don't tell you to stop eating produce three states away. VINICK What's your answer? Solar? One-fifth of one percent of all our energy at five times the cost. Wind? Another spike in OPEC prices. Nuclear is the only alternative. BARTLET It is not and alternative. I know the Regulation's a mess. No regulation could make it safe. We could barely evacuate a town... C.J. knocks and comes in. C.J. Forgive me, Mr. President. The second team has closed the relief valve. The crisis is over for now. But the engineer who had fallen into the coma, he died 20 minutes ago from acute radiation poisoning. We'll get you another call sheet. BARTLET Two copies of that call sheet. She leaves. CUT TO: INT. - VINICK HQ - DAY Bruno and Bob are watching as a news story tells of Vinick's involvement in the plant's opening. ANCHOR The Vinick campaign can't be happy with the Post's online scoop. Documents showing that Vinick was a strong and early supporter of the San Andreo plant... CUT TO: INT. - HOTEL WAR ROOM - DAY Donna walks into the room where Santos staffers are watching a similar report. MALE ANCHOR ... that now symbolizes more than anything since Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, the cost and perils of nuclear power in the United States. CUT TO: INT. - BARTLET'S OFFICE - AF1 - DAY Bartlet and C.J. are talking. C.J. You might get some questions as you deplane. Apparently, Senator Vinick was involved in the original Federal approval of the San Andreo plant. BARTLET Are you sure it's safe to take everyone out there? C.J. According to the EPA, the remaining radiation is within the acceptable dosage. BARTLET You're too young to remember Duck and Cover. They begin walking. C.J. Sir? BARTLET We'd hide under our little wooden desks at school. At some point they stopped the drills. The threat was still there - they just stopped having the drills. I guess the realized a piece of plywood wasn't going to protect us against an atomic blast. They meet Kate and start talking of Kazakhstan. BARTLET Kazakhstan? KATE Newly elected governments killed 114 protestors. China is crossing the border into ethnic Chinese enclaves. Russian troops are ready to enter as well. BARTLET We can't have China and Russia blowing each other to bits over election fraud. C.J. No, oil, really. Fraud's just the kicker. Will walks up. WILL The governor's waiting in the motorcade. KATE We've canvassed the other nations to see if there's an appetite for and international police force. They've made clear it'd have to be predominately U.S. troops operating from our bases. BARTLET How many would I have to send? KATE Seems the estimate is 90,000, for starters. CUT TO: INT. - SANTOS'S HOTEL ROOM - DAY Santos, Helen, Josh, and Bram are watching Bartlet on the news. BARTLET Based on federal safety standards, evacuated residents will be allowed to return. But we don't know the full effects of radiation releases. We may not know for months, maybe even years. And we have to be candid about that. And so, while we continue monitoring and testing, we will also help with the relocation of those residents who may not wish to return to San Andreo. Thank you. As Bartlet finishes, someone shuts off the set. CUT TO: INT. - PRESS ROOM - HOTEL - DAY Donna walks Santos into the press room and to the podium. SANTOS We're all relieved the worst is over. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of James Cook, the federal engineer who gave his life to save others. REPORTER Should this make Senator Vinick question his energy plans for the country? SANTOS I can't speak for anyone else. It makes me question a lot about our energy plans. Thank you. CUT TO: INT. - CONFERENCE ROOM - VINICK HQ - NIGHT 8:24 PM Bob is at one of the electoral boards. He is moving red magnets out of states, until a large portion of the board is white. They are listening to a news story in the background. ANCHOR More than a dozen states that had been squarely in the Vinick column, including Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, his own state California - all the states with nuclear power plants are now within the margin of error. It's a political meltdown, for sure. The Santos campaign is declining comment, but they've been flooded with volunteers and donations since the news that Senator Vinick lobbied for the San Andreo nuclear generating station. CUT TO: INT. - WAR ROOM - NIGHT Santos, Helen, Josh, and Donna are standing around a similar electoral board. This one shows as much white as Vinick's did. Bram walks in. BRAM Advance wants to know if we're... JOSH We're taking tomorrow off too. It's going to be wall-to-wall press on this. HELEN All that campaigning didn't do a thing. DONNA At this rate, maybe we should take the whole month off. Josh walks to the board and picks up a dry erase marker. He writes above the map: "TOO CLOSE TO CALL." He underlines it. DISSOLVE TO: END TITLES. FADE TO BLACK. THE END. * * * The West Wing episode 7.12 "Duck and Cover", original air date 22 January, 2006.