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Power Company's Possible Expansion Causes Concern For Wake County Residents

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — A local power company's idea of expanding a nuclear power plant in Wake County is drawing opposition from local residents.

One way Progress Energy is looking to provide more electricity to the state's growing population is by adding another nuclear reactor to the Shearon Harris nuclear facility near Holly Springs.

The plant has been in the area for nearly 20 years. Progress Energy is also looking to add new nuclear technology that would make the plant safer, it says.

Opponents say they don't buy it and don't want it.

Activist Jim Warren points to safety issues, such as terrorist attacks and environmental concerns. He worries the move will only increase the potential for trouble. "The reactors are more dangerous than ever," Warren says. "These cooling pools are vulnerable to a variety of attacks, and that could release enormous amounts of gamma radiation."

Chad Church lives in the shadows of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant. He said it's not something to which he gives a lot of thought.

"Exactly how many nuclear accidents have there been in past history? So comma I think the odds are pretty slim that there will actually be a problem," Church said.

Progress Energy spokesman Rick Kimble says Shearon Harris was originally built to house four reactors, but currently only uses only one. "The footprint is there, and obviously the space is there to add additional units if we needed them."

In the last five years, power demand has increased four percent. The continued growth is fueling the need for more power supply. The company is also looking at other options, such as coal and oil, but Kimble says nuclear power is cleaner and less costly.

"Our job as a utility company is to provide electricity for the customers in North Carolina, and to make sure they get enough electricity." Kimble said. "And we do that with the best means possible."

Progress Energy said it could take a year to decide what it will do. If the company does decide to expand Shearon Harris, it is not expected to be running until 2015.

There are 103 nuclear reactors operating in the U-S.. North Carolina has five. Only four states have more operating reactors. New York has six, South Carolina has seven, Pennsylvania has nine and Illinois has 11.

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