The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Shearon Harris Stink Might Be Unwarranted

The Raging Grannies, N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, members of UNC's Students for Environmental Action Coalition and residents are planning to protest CP&L's plan to store more waste at its Wake County site.

The company uses only two of its four storage buildings and would like to use them all. Officials with the company say they've had to increase power output because the Triangle is such a fast-growing area. More power means more waste. And more waste means the company needs more space to put it all.

Opponents, which for legal purposes include Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, say increasing the waste storage capacity at Shearon Harris would be unsafe. CP&L uses the nuclear power plant to store the waste from all its nuclear plants (excluding ones it will acquire from a merger with a Florida company), and opponents of that say it would be safer to store the waste in small amounts at several different sites.

While no one wants a nuclear accident, a small nuclear accident is better than a big nuclear accident.

I'm all for civil disobedience and public protests, and I don't particularly like the idea of a bigger, badder Shearon Harris less than 50 miles away. But the protesters are saying CP&L officials have never publicly addressed safety concerns about increasing the waste storage space. And that's simply not true.

Do I personally think a huge nuclear plant is safe? No. But it's not as though CP&L is trying to nuke the state of North Carolina off the planet.

The company held a forum in Raleigh in September. Officials explained what they wanted to do in terms of waste storage expansion and why they thought they needed to do it. They also answered questions.

Obviously, when a company answers questions about its safety practices, the information is biased in the company's favor, but company officials don't lie outright, especially when they're under as much government scrutiny as nuclear power providers are. Besides, CP&L's top officials live in this area. They back up their word on safety with their lives and their families' lives.

A nuclear storage facility, in the most basic terms, is layers and layers of steel and concrete. It's not just a big plastic trash can.

(Of course, in the event of a major accident, layers of steel and concrete might be about as effective as a plastic trash can.)

The people who deal with safety at Shearon Harris also are highly trained people (as nuclear physicists tend to be). Plus, as company officials explained at September's forum, they are constantly getting their training updated.

Shearon Harris employees didn't stop by McDonalds for a job application first.

Most of the information I have about the safety at Shearon Harris I got from the forum CP&L had. There's no denying company officials were willing to publicly address safety concerns.

Whether I or other people think it would be safe enough is, of course, another story.

There didn't seem to be many protesters at the forum. If there were a lot, then they weren't vocal, because only two asked questions of company officials.

That would have been the perfect place for protesters to voice their concerns.

I'll give my endorsement for Sunday's protest, but I'd also like to see more community activists asking questions at public forums like the one in September.

And banana cream obviously works best.

Erin Mendell can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023