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Investigation Renews CP&L Conflict

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of the Inspector General is investigating the decision by NRC staff that allowed Carolina Power & Light Co. to expand nuclear waste storage potential at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant. Activists said the investigation potentially could be a huge step forward in their 2 1/2-year campaign against the expansion.

Activists from Orange and Chatham counties met with executives from CP&L on Tuesday to discuss concerns regarding the expansion of waste storage potential at the plant. Those who attended the meeting said it is a possible step in the right direction.

Jim Warren, executive director of the N.C. Waste Awareness & Reduction Network, said the meeting called by CP&L officials could be a significant development in the ordeal.

But Warren said the investigation, which started in late March, could have greater implications.

"We are pretty confident the NRC investigation is going to bear some fruit and justify the position we've taken all along on this matter," Warren said. "We feel that if the inspector general looks at the evidence presented, it will be determined that the NRC staff and the (Atomic Safety and Licensing Board) were influenced by pressure from CP&L."

Gary Phillips, chairman of the Chatham County Commissioners and one of the activists, said the meeting called by CP&L was a promising development in the ongoing struggle. "I'm not going to say the meeting was a lovefest," Phillips said. "CP&L has put out an olive branch here. The meeting was hopefully the start of some constructive dialogue on the issues of concern."

Keith Poston, spokesman for CP&L, said the meeting was very productive and was typical of the company's concern for the area.

"We are passionate in our commitment to serve this area as safely and effectively as possible," Poston said. "We really looked at this meeting as a part of our ongoing commitment to the community that we serve, and we feel like we are doing our best to answer the many questions and concerns of those from the area."

Warren said both CP&L and NRC officials have admitted that Orange County consultant Dr. Gordon Thompson was correct in his calculation of the damage the area would sustain in the event of a particular disaster at the plant. "They had to eat a little bit of crow on that one," Warren said. "Maybe now they'll understand that an open scientific debate on this is imperative."

But Poston denied validating Thompson and said the findings of Thompson's study were based on rare circumstances. "We've not conceded anything regarding Thompson's contentions, and we've dealt with conditions at the plant that are likely," Poston said. "We've satisfied all federal regulations through this entire process."

Warren said the two sides have promised to meet next week and said he hopes more will be resolved then.

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