CP&L expansion plans include increased storage of uranium fuel rods in cooling pools at the local Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant.
The court's ruling went in favor of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the operations of the power companies, based on its research that the chance of a nuclear accident occurring would be extremely rare.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners wants CP&L to store waste in dry casks to minimize the likelihood of an incident. The board also requested an environmental impact statement to gauge the effects of the fuel storage.
Diane Curran, the attorney representing Orange County, said NRC scientists have admitted that an accident could occur if any water in the cooling pools is lost.
"They haven't changed anything, and now we've got 9-11 and we know there's people with a motive to drain the pools," she said.
Curran said the court was willing to accept the report from the NRC without further probing of what accidents could actually happen.
Commissioner Barry Jacobs said he knew from the beginning it was going to be a hard-fought battle.
"It's a blow," he said. "The stack was was stacked against us from the start."
Commissioner Moses Carey said that the outcome was disappointing but that it paralleled the past attitudes of both nuclear agencies and the NRC. "It's indicative of the treatment we've received," he said.
Curran said that the commissioners have not decided what course to take but that they could ask the Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling and then possibly take the case to the Supreme Court.
"The county is always hopeful that the NRC will see the light and do the right thing to protect the environment and public health," she said.
Carey said the county will not cease its efforts and will continue to address the issue in some manner. "That won't stop us to act in the public's interest," he said. "We have to change procedures to protect the interests of the public."
Assistant City Editor Michael Davis contributed to this story.
The City Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.