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The Daily Tar Heel

OK Already, Move On With The Expansion

A March 1 Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling had allowed the Carolina Power & Light Co. -- the company that owns Shearon Harris -- to use dormant waste storage pools at the plant.

The increased use of waste storage would give the nuclear power plant the potential to store the most nuclear waste in the nation.

All the people who, like me, were concerned about having a big, fatty nuclear waste site in Wake County (within 50 miles of Chapel Hill), were getting ready to suck it up. All appeals were exhausted, and Shearon Harris had the go-ahead.

But now an independent board of the NRC is investigating whether the NRC made its decision too hastily. The officials from the commission's inspector general office are examining concerns Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange and Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange expressed in a letter to the NRC.

Kinnaird told The Daily Tar Heel that the legislators wanted to know whether the NRC followed the correct procedure in making the decision about the waste storage pools. "We think it seems (the decision) went through kind of fast."

As much as I disagree with the decision to let CP&L use more of its waste storage pools, (it's safer to store nuclear waste in small amounts at different sites,) it seems like it's time to give it up.

Within every bureaucratic government agency, there is a process for making a decision. That process might not always be good, and so the process should be questioned. But at some point the agency has to make a decision, and opponents of that decision can't keep appealing forever.

Like it or not, it's time to move on. In my and many other people's opinions, CP&L could find a better way of storing waste than expanding the use of storage facilities at just one site.

But it's not as though the company is hatching an evil plot to nuclearly annihilate Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties. The people who work at Shearon Harris are not the same people who are bagging your groceries at Food Lion. They are highly trained nuclear experts who know what to do to prevent any accidents.

Of course, you can't plan for everything, and there's a chance an accident could happen, and that's where the concern comes in.

The people who work at Shearon Harris -- and those include some of the big cheeses from CP&L -- also live in the area.

They worry about their families' safety as much as the opponents of the plant's storage expansion. The situation is not just a case of a big company giving us a bunch of spin. The company's officials have as much of a stake in the safety of the community as the rest of us.

CP&L's storage expansion could avoid any disastrous power shortages like the one California is experiencing. California's tight regulations on anything that could pose an environmental risk on top of the deregulation woes has meant supply can't keep up with demand, and now the state paying the price. A similar situation isn't farfetched for the Triangle. It's a fast-growing area, and its power needs are fast-growing as well.

Opponents of CP&L's expansion can still use all that energy they've been using to fight the storage expansion. There are a lot of people in the area who don't know that much about nuclear power. The protesters could put their efforts toward educating people about it. That way the only big source of information about local nuclear power wouldn't be from a power company that uses nuclear energy.

However strongly they might feel they're right, and however strongly I might agree with the concerns of the Shearon Harris expansion's opponents, they're out of options and should find a way to make a difference within the new set of options.

Columnist Erin Mendell can be reached at mendell@email.unc.edu.

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