Not In My Back Yard, Please: New Nuclear for NC?

Nuclear power is a pretty emotive subject. Perhaps surprisingly, when we asked our readers if nuclear has a place in our energy future, the results seemed to indicate a majority in support of at least some future nuclear capabilities. Yet a recent in-house discussion among TH writers put the majority of us marginally against further reactors, though the results were by no means conclusive. Meanwhile TreeHugger favourite Bill McDonough is all about nuclear reactors, he just thinks that the big yellow fusion-reactor sitting in our sky is superior to anything we could come up with. This author must admit he remains undecided — if nuclear really can help curb global warming, which is clearly our biggest current environmental crisis, he may be open to limited, and very strictly controlled, development of nuclear. However, it seems hard to stomach claims that it's the only way when the HUGE potential of increased efficiency and clean renewables remain so woefully under-utillized and under-funded.

Ultimately, even if new nuclear is necessary and safe (and that's a big if), most of us lived through the Chernobyl era and will therefore find it hard to think about the subject in purely rational terms. 'Not in my backyard' will remain a very common, and pretty understandable, response for many. It is with interest then, and some trepidation, that this TreeHugger notes that his backyard may well become a testing ground for the next stages in this ongoing controversy:

"Progress Energy would propose nearly doubling the size of a Wake County [near Raleigh, North Carolina recreational lake as it moves ahead with plans to seek a federal license for new Shearon Harris nuclear reactors.

Harris Lake, created in the 1980s as the main cooling source for the Shearon Harris nuclear plant, would have to be raised about 20 feet to hold sufficient water to cool additional reactors. If Progress decides to build new reactors at the site, the fir t reactor would start operating in 2018, at the earliest. The proposal would be filed in January as part of the Raleigh utility's reactor license application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The license application would also be reviewed by federal and state environmental agencies. As a precaution against drought conditions, Progress Energy also wants permission to pump water out of the Cape Fear River to supplement Harris Lake, said Joe Donahue, Progress' vice president of nuclear engineering and services.

If the reservoir drops elow a certain level, the NRC requires Progress Energy to stop operating the nuclear plant. Harris Lake is approaching record low levels now. Harris Lake was designed to accommodate four nuclear reactors, but the size of the reservoir was scaled back in the early-1980s when the company decided to build only one reactor. Expanding the 4,000-acre lake would inundate a road, a hunting area and Wake County's biggest public park, which has hiking trails and boat ramps. Harris Lake County Park is on Progress Energy property that the county is leasing. "Our biggest concern is they're going to flood about half of our park and inundate our facilities," said Chris Snow, director of Wake County's Division of Parks, Recreation and Open Space."

Whether or not this author can be persuaded about the necessity of new nuclear, he doesn't mind admitting that he'll be doing his recreational hiking and boating elsewhere. So will any future children he may have if he has anything to do with it. Image credit: Hungry Blues blog.::News & Observer:: via Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News::

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