Local News

Contaminated Shipment Of Nuclear Waste Passes Into Wake County

Posted August 7, 2003

— Progress Energy

was under a microscope Wednesday night after a contaminated shipment of nuclear waste passed into Wake County.

The company said no one was ever in danger. But a local watchdog group was not so sure.

Jim Warren, of the

North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network

, is interested in why the government and Progress Energy do not release many details on shipments of spent nuclear fuel rods through North Carolina.

Progress Energy said the answer is simple: Security reasons don't allow it.

"I don't buy it," Warren said.

The only nuclear waste shipped commercially in the United States comes to Wake County from Brunswick County and from Hartsville, S.C. Last week, Warren's group came across a notice of contamination from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A radiation leak on a canister was detected when the shipment reached the Shearon Harris reactor near Raleigh.

"In this case," Warren said, "it had double the legal limit on the outside of a canister."

The spent nuclear fuel rods are shipped by rail. In this case, the

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

said the safety threat was so insignificant that a person could wrap their arms around the rail car and not be exposed.

"Keep in mind this was a very small amount," said Rick Kimble of Progress Energy.

Kimble said layers of steel barriers completely contained the radiation.

Kimble said there is nothing to worry about but that he can not elaborate.

"It's all for security reasons," he said.

Kimble pointed to the company's safety record, adding that this is the only incident of its kind in 20 years of shipping nuclear waste.

The shipments occur about once a month. Progress Energy hopes to phase them out in two years.

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