Progress Energy Power Plant

Progress Energy has created a big stir by proposing a new power reactor at the site of its current reactor in western Wake County, Shearon Harris. Progress is debating between putting a nuclear or coal fired reactor. But there has already been opposition to the plan, including NC Warn who released this statement. The Durham Herald-Sun has a decent article on the proposal here. From the article:

Progress Energy officials announced Monday that they may try to deal with the Triangle's growing need for electricity by adding a second reactor to the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant in southwestern Wake County.

They stopped short of saying they were committed to the idea, but a spokesman said the licensing process for a new reactor is so lengthy that Progress Energy has to apply for permits in late 2007 or 2008 to have a chance of having its generating capacity on line by 2016.

It's also possible that the company might try instead to build a coal-fueled plant in the area to provide additional capacity. The regulatory process for a coal plant is also time-consuming, but it's enough shorter than the one for a nuclear facility that the company still has another two years before it has to commit itself, officials said.

The opposition claims that there is no need for any plant in the area:

That claim drew an immediate rebuttal from the leader of a Durham-based anti-nuclear group, the N.C. Waste Awareness & Reduction Network, who said his organization will challenge Progress Energy's forecasts once the permitting process gets under way.

The group will be just as aggressive in arguing against a coal plant, as it believes that energy conservation and the use of renewable energy sources is a better alternative than the construction of large new generation facilities, Executive Director Jim Warren said.

"[Demand] forecasting is fraught with problems," Warren said. "Even if you trusted all the utility's forecasts -- and they've been wrong really big in a few ways -- that still doesn't prove you have to go with huge generation plants. That's part of the whole debate. What we're going to see is that efficiency can cut that curve down. We're convinced, and we're going to make a helluva argument that you can and should do without gambling on these huge plants."

I do not know where I stand on the issue of whether there needs to be a new plant or if it should be coal or nuclear. I do not want to have the immediate knee-jerk negative reaction to any new power since I know that the area has seen significant growth (500,000 new costumers by Progress's count); however, I have heard from players in the energy market that Progress has already overbuilt capacity and is only using a small percentage of their capacity. The coal versus nuclear issue is also tricky as they have two very different environmental concerns: The air pollution of coal and the waste of nuclear.

Regardless of how Progress proceeds, we will then have an opportunity to react and fight against the proposal if we disagree with it then. Now should be a time to educate ourselves and think about what plant we would be okay with and what types we would be completely against.


And . . .

while we're educating ourselves and evaluating plant alternatives, we should also be asking what it would take to make more generation capacity unnecessary.

For example, what if North Carolina behaved like some of the more progressive states and embraced the concept of extreme conservation?

Or more radical, what if solar electricity generation were REQUIRED as part of any new construction project? We already require certain levels of insulation and certain kinds of toilets? What if every home or office had to cover X% of its electricity needs with alternative sources to "the grid?"

I don't have any answers either, but I sure have a lot of questions. And I wish this debate could start from a focus on what's possible instead of two sides digging in on pre-determined positions.