Local News

Orange County opposes Shearon Harris expansion

Posted July 31, 2008 9:03 p.m. EDT

— The Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Thursday to formally oppose a proposed expansion to the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant.

In February, Progress Energy filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two more nuclear reactors at its Shearon Harris facility in Wake County.

On Thursday, commissioners also voted to hire an attorney to file a formal intervention with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In a letter to the commissioners, County Manager Laura Blackmon said opponents of the Harris proposal have until Aug. 4 to file an intervention.

Progress Energy is in the midst of public hearings with the NRC, a requirement to build new reactors. Company officials said a growing customer base and a higher demand for power justify the expansion. The company expects to add 500,000 customers in the next 20 years.

A final decision on whether to build the $2 to $3 billion reactor is still years away and will depend not only on public support, but on regulatory approval, predictions of energy demand and economic conditions, Progress officials said.

A new plant could be online as early as 2018 if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves.

North Carolina gets 32 percent of its power from five nuclear sites, 20 percent of which is supplied by Shearon Harris. Progress Energy has two other reactors in Brunswick County and Charlotte-based Duke Power has two reactors in Cornelius, north or Charlotte.

Nationwide, 20 percent of electricity comes from 103 commercial nuclear reactors operating in 31 states.