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The Daily Tar Heel

Edwards Asked to Intervene

Edwards Asked to Intervene

Representatives from Orange, Chatham and Durham counties, Chapel Hill and Carrboro and a local activist had a 25-minute conference call with Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., on Monday, asking for his support in their quest for open safety hearings regarding expansion at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant.

Edwards listened to concerns and advised officials to work with Rep. David Price, D-N.C., as well.

The local representatives asked Edwards to appeal to the five-member panel of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold public hearings on the safety of the waste storage expansion at the Shearon Harris plant in Wake County. The plant is the property of Carolina Power & Light Co.

"We all expressed concern about the lack of input into what could be one of the largest nuclear waste dumps in the country," said Chatham County Commissioner Gary Phillips.

During the conference, Edwards asked Jim Warren, director the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, to send him more information on the subject and advised the county representatives to contact Price to ask him to coordinate with Edwards.

"It was very productive," said Mike Briggs, Edwards' press secretary. "The senator listened to the representatives of the local group and is looking forward to working with Congressman Price as he has done in the past."

But Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser said he was not completely satisfied with the senator's response.

"He didn't give any indication of what he's going to do," he said. "I didn't know what to make of it when I left."

Although Edwards made no concrete promises, Orange County Commissioner Stephen Halkiotis said he was optimistic because of Edwards' previous support.

"(Edwards and Price have) been supportive in the past, and we want to renew that support and that was what this meeting was all about," he said.

In 1998, CP&L asked the NRC to amend the Shearon Harris operating license, which allows CP&L to use two unused high-level waste storage pools. If CP&L fills all four pools, Shearon Harris will be the largest high-level waste storage facility in the country.

Warren said Edwards could help cut through the complex NRC processes inhibiting public comment. The NRC has final authority over regulations governing the nuclear industry.

"We're asking Edwards to insist the NRC commission use that discretionary authority to call these hearings," Warren said.

CP&L spokesman Keith Poston said he still expected the NRC commission to approve CP&L's request.

"With the regulatory process we've been following for the last two years, we expect the NRC commissioners to support the NRC staff and the (Atomic Safety and Licensing Board)," Poston said, referring to two NRC decision-making bodies which granted the CP&L license amendment earlier in the process. Orange County has appealed those rulings.

"We wanted to communicate to the senator the importance of having the (NRC) commission make a determination that the hearings take place," Foy said. "Because apparently the (NRC) commission will be giving CP&L the permission to go ahead in the next few weeks."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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