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The Daily Tar Heel

Board Permits Greater Waste Storage for CP&L

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board handed down a ruling Thursday that cleared the way for CP&L to use two additional waste storage pools at its Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant.

A Feb. 14 decision by the full five-member panel of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission halted the opening of two nuclear waste storage pools at the plant. CP&L had been given the go-ahead by the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation to begin expansion plans, but the full commission wanted the staff to answer lingering questions that arose from the expansion.

Thursday's ruling indicated that these questions have been answered.

The Orange County Commissioners say a disaster at the plant, which will have the capacity to store the most nuclear waste in the country, could affect a 50-mile radius, which includes Orange County.

But CP&L spokesman Mike Hughes said the ruling should bring to a close the battle over whether the plant could open the pools. "What's important here is that two separate arms (the ASLB and the NRC staff) independently reached the same conclusion," he said. "It again has confirmed the plan we proposed in 1998 is safe and responsible."

Hughes said the third pool should be fully operational by the middle of this year. He also said the fourth pool would not be needed until 2016 but that he hoped the federal government will have opened another repository by that time.

But N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network Director Jim Warren said the ruling disregarded Orange County's safety concerns.

"At this point the NRC intends to try to create the largest stockpile of nuclear waste in the country without even a lousy safety hearing," Warren said.

But he also said Orange County still had the option to appeal the ruling.

"The next step would be to appeal this and ask the five-member panel to review and reconsider the order," Warren said. "Beyond that, the next step would be, if it is taken, an appeal to federal court."

Hughes said he understood the ruling does not guarantee the issue is behind CP&L. "(It is) not behind us, but this is an important milestone in that this is the end of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's exhaustive investigation," he said. "This has hardly been the rubber stamp people thought it would be when it started."

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