Local News

Progress Energy hopes to expand nuclear plant

Posted February 3, 2008 6:21 p.m. EST
Updated April 30, 2008 6:26 p.m. EDT

— The Triangle is seeing unprecedented growth, and some people are asking how all the homes, buildings and businesses on the horizon will get electric power.

Progress Energy's solution is to expand the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in southern Wake County. Others say that is the wrong answer.

“Nuclear is one of the safest, most-reliable sources of electricity,” Progress Energy spokesman Rick Kimble said.

"The economics of new nuclear just really doesn't work,” said Jim Warren, executive director of the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network.

Progress Energy wants to build two new reactors at the Shearon Harris site to accommodate growth. The counter-argument is that more nuclear energy is precisely what the community does not need.

“It's an outdated technology,” Warren said. 

His environmental group is critical of nuclear power and wants consumers to look for more energy-efficient solutions that cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from conventionally fueled plants.

“We know how to do that, and building new nuclear plants would squander our chances to do that in time,” he said.

Ultimately, the decision on the Shearon Harris expansion is up to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“As long as it's safe, that is our bottom line,” U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale Klein said.

Klein also said there is not a "significant safety concern at Shearon Harris." While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not received Progress Energy's application yet, Klein said new reactors are a sign of the times.

“We need to use all forms of energy wisely. If we can conserve, we should. I think a lot of us now turn our lights out when we leave a room. We used to leave them on,” Klein said.

Progress Energy said it expects to file its expansion application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometime this month. The company hopes to have the two new reactors up and running by 2018.

The Shearon Harris nuclear plant generates electricity for 1.5 million Progress Energy customers in the Carolinas.