Thanks to the many of you who contacted us regarding the Independent Weekly’s late 2009 article about Shearon Harris. Many of you remember this five-year campaign, and as several noted, the nuclear waste shipments have ended. The following letter appears in the current edition of the paper. (You can see a graphic comparison of waste pools vs. bunkered storage on the Nuclear Waste page of our website). Let us know if you have any questions.
To the Editor,
Thanks to the Indy for publishing the Project Censored review of key issues under-reported by the mainstream media. The article on the Triangle’s Shearon Harris nuclear plant, stemming from a 2003 piece in Counterpunch, remains mostly on target about the dangers of cooling pools containing “spent” nuclear fuel rods: nuclear waste.
The author correctly noted that Harris’ pools are the largest in the U.S. In my opinion, such waste pools represent the greatest risk factor at US nuclear plants because they contain millions of pounds of highly irradiated material. And – due to industry’s cost-cutting pressures – the pools are quite modestly defended against a wide range of malicious acts.
In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed the concerns of scientists and citizen groups across the US, and endorsed a proposal that would reduce risks of catastrophic pool fires by dispersing the waste and moving most of it into bunkered, dry storage. But the industry balked, preferring to sink millions into exploring construction of new reactors.
One clarification: Progress Energy indeed had shipped spent fuel by train to Harris from its other plants and intended to do so until 2030. That was the subject of a contentious five-year fight that NC WARN instigated in 1998 along with Orange County, with help from other local governments.
Although Progress won approval to open two new pools at Harris, in 2003, the power company agreed to phase-out its shipping of waste, and did so over the next few years as it added storage capacity at the Robinson and Brunswick plants.
Harris’ four pools remain an even greater risk than were the nuclear waste trains. And with a long-plagued national disposal project at Yucca Mountain, Nevada virtually dead, nuclear plants are becoming de facto permanent waste dumps. This increases the need for the safer storage plan advocated by watchdog groups and scientists.
Jim Warren, Executive Director
North Carolina Waste Awareness & Reduction Network
Ph: 919-416-5077 Fax: 919-286-3985
PO Box 61051, Durham, NC 27715-1051