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Crowd Protests Nuclear Expansion

The bicyclists wore signs encouraging motorists to follow them to Carolina Power & Light Co.'s Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant, where more than 100 residents, students and other activists teamed up to protest the plant's potential on-site expansion. The expansion is slated to start this summer, should the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's March 1 decision go uncontested.

Kristen Kerr, co-chairwoman of the Students Environmental Action Coalition, said the bicycling tactic was a creative way to make an impact. "It showed how close the plant is," she said. "It was a good way for people to do public outreach."

Kerr also said that props, such as a two-headed gigantic puppet representing a connected relationship between CP&L and the NRC, were used to push their points further home.

"It boosted the morale of people," she said. "This issue has been going on for a long time so it's easy to get burned out."

Keith Poston, spokesman for CP&L, attended the event and said plant officials respect the community's right to protest. "We are steadfast in our belief that our plan is safe and responsible," he said. "Not everyone is going to agree with us. We might have to agree to disagree."

Poston also dismissed claims made by the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network that CP&L and the NRC were working together.

Talks began between CP&L and N.C. WARN last week, where officials are trying to mend the process.

"We made it clear that we are committed to answering all the questions we can," Poston said. "We're also realistic and know that we can't make everyone happy."

But Kerr said she thought CP&L was becoming aware of the implications of ruling without input from residents.

"CP&L has met with N.C. WARN in the past week, so they're getting scared," she said. "They're running out of time. We want to rally the public and take a stand on the issues."

At the end of the event, Kerr said about 20 people stuck around to meditate after the group finished singing. "We sat and meditated to send good energy into the plant," she said.

Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. WARN, said the rally was targeted at getting Edwards more involved. "(Edwards) is being expected and being asked to try and persuade the NRC's call for these hearings and that is what we've been waiting for all this time."

Warren said this is the chance the group needs to spring forward and get what they want. "The (NRC) has full discretional authority and (will) do whatever is right," he said.

"Sen. Edwards has an opportunity to demand that this go through proper safety review."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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