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The Daily Tar Heel

County Petitions NRC Concerning Shearon Harris

Orange County lawyers will submit motions to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel today asking for a statement on what impact the future on-site expansion of the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant would have on surrounding areas.

The motions will mark the Orange County Board of Commissioners' continuing fight for answers to safety concerns regarding a plan that would make Shearon Harris the largest nuclear waste repository in the nation.

"The deal is that the 20th is the deadline for all parties, Orange County, CP&L and the NRC, to have their motions filed," said Jim Warren, director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, a grassroots organization that opposes plant expansion. "(The issue) is essentially whether or not there should be an environmental impact statement."

For the past two years, Orange County has been embroiled in Carolina Power & Light Co.'s application to amend its license to allow storage of spent nuclear fuel rods in two unused storage pools. "It's a very complicated process," said Roger Hannah, NRC public affairs officer. "Whenever there is a license amendment taken by someone, there is an opportunity for intervention, and Orange County decided to do that."

Orange County and CP&L are submitting motions to the federal Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Three board members will convene to make decisions about operating licenses of nuclear plants. "The chair is an attorney and (also) a judge, and usually the other two are technical experts or scientists who are experts in the field," Hannah said.

Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs said he does not believe CP&L has addressed to his satisfaction the safety concerns of expansion and wants CP&L to explain itself to residents. "We still believe that questions need to be answered before anybody, be it NRC or CP&L, says it's safe to expand this facility," he said.

County officials' problems with the plant are largely technical, such as how tightly the spent fuel rods will be stacked and the quality of the welds in the storage pools, Jacobs said.

"The longer the process goes on, the more skeptical I become that the storage pools are safe because more issues keep coming up," Jacobs said.

He said trying to get answers has cost Orange County about $150,000, which he says was money well spent.

CP&L corporate communications manager Jeanne Bonds said the commissioners' concerns are exaggerated and that technical issues will not be part of today's submission to the panel.

"Technical issues are about the construction of the pools," she said.

"(The issues) are largely closed because all the pools were approved at the same time and constructed at the same time."

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