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This Issue:
   October 14, 2002
 
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Do it right
 
There is only one way for FirstEnergy Corp. and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to redeem themselves for their egregious errors in judgment that allowed the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant to operate as long as it did with a dangerously corroded reactor head. The unit should not be restarted until the regulatory agency is certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that any and all structural, mechanical and procedural problems at Davis-Besse have been addressed and the safe operation of the plant has been assured.

The preceding statement should go without saying, but is necessary given the potentially disastrous series of events that led to Davis-Besse's shutdown last February. One would think the system of safety checks in place at a nuclear plant would have led someone from FirstEnergy or the federal agency to respond decisively to the warning signs of corrosion in the reactor head before boric acid in leaking coolant had eaten a deep hole in the lid and compromised its structural integrity. But what's truly mind-boggling is the NRC's decision last fall to let the plant keep operating through most of the winter despite suspicions by its staff that the reactor's lid had cracks.

The General Accounting Office, at the request of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, plans to conduct an investigation into the NRC's handling of the Davis-Besse case, and well it should. Sometimes even a watchdog needs a watchdog, and a probe by the watchdog of Congress, the GAO, into how and how well the NRC did its job at Davis-Besse could improve the latter watchdog's oversight of the nuclear power industry.

As for FirstEnergy, whatever fines the NRC dishes out related to its findings that Davis-Besse officials generated inaccurate and incomplete reports about the reactor's condition likely will pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars the company is shelling out to repair the plant and to buy replacement power. The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, once said, "There is no education in the second kick of a mule." FirstEnergy shareholders should hope company managers have learned from the first kick and won't take a shortsighted approach to dealing with problems in the future.

Wine n' gold

Nothing will bring basketball fans back into the seats at Gund Arena faster than winning, but it still is good that the Cleveland Cavaliers have decided to go retro by bringing back what the organization describes as an updated version of the team's original wine and gold colors when the 2003-2004 season rolls around. Now the franchise needs to stick with a plan for rebuilding the team's fortunes so that players and fans can be proud to wear those new uniforms.

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