Local News

Residents near Wake nuclear plant take precautions

Posted March 14, 2011 11:03 p.m. EDT
Updated March 15, 2011 9:41 a.m. EDT

The Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill

— As Japan battles fears of a radiation leak from nuclear reactors after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged the region Friday, people locally are considering the dangers of nuclear power in their own backyards.

The Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, for example, has been supplying power to its customers for more than two decades. There are safety precautions on site and in the many communities that surround the facility in southwestern Wake County, and residents say they are comfortable with that.

"There's lots of cities and towns that are close to (nuclear plants)," said Bettina Galarneau, who lives near the plant. "I grew up 20 miles from another location, so it's a clean energy. I'm not too concerned about it."

If a major accident were to happen at Shearon Harris, the state would oversee shelters, evacuations and the administration of potassium iodide tablets, according to state health officials.

"Potassium iodide is basically a salt tablet," said Amanda Fuller Moore, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Division of Health. "It prevents the thyroid from taking in radioactive idodine."

The small, white pills are given to people within a 10-mile radius of the plant and are used only in extreme cases, Moore said.

"It would take a really large meltdown and breach in order for us to advise people to take potassium iodide," she said.

Tim Richards, who has lived near Shearon Harris for 14 years, keeps the pills on hand as a precaution, but health officials said they should only be taken in an emergency.

"You want to be safe. So, if the one thing happens we don't think is going to, we take the iodide pills and drive," Richards said.