Millstones Around His Neck

Nuclear power is burning Bernard Fox. After six months as head of New England's largest electric utility--Northeast Utilities, in Berlin, Conn.--Fox, 54, has two Connecticut plants down, two under close watch by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and layoffs looming.

Fox says his "new, stronger game plan" will help NU solve "short-term problems." But last November's shutdown of the Millstone I plant is now extended into summer because of safety concerns. Millstone II went down on Feb. 20 because it didn't hew to licensing requirements. And the NRC said on Mar. 8 that by Apr. 7 it may shutter two other plants if they fail to resolve glitches in their emergency safety systems. Meantime, NU may trim its nuke workforce of 3,000 by up to one-third over the next five years.

This is serious in New England, where 35% of electric power is nuclear. Replacement power for the two closed plants costs $13 million a month, and Connecticut regulators may lay the bill on consumers. Fox may be wishing his time at NU's helm were off to a brighter start.

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