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Wasting safety
Some additional points regarding the article about potential terrorism at Shearon Harris ["Risky Business," Dec. 5]: The U.S. public is understandably concerned about possible attacks on nuclear plants. But minimizing risk is feasible and inexpensive--and necessary, especially at the largest potential targets such as Harris. The measures we're advocating would likely remove the Wake County plant from any terrorist's list, and would greatly reduce--or even prevent--the radiation released if an attack occurred.

In addition to replacing the high-density pools with dry storage, each fortified concrete cask should be surrounded by earth or gravel berms and spaced sufficiently so that multiple casks couldn't be struck in an attack. It's a matter of relative risk. Currently at Harris, there are nearly 4,000 bundles of fuel rods--over 10 million pounds of high-level waste--concentrated under one roof in interconnected pools. The industry and the NRC admitted last year that waste up to 10 years old that is stored in high-density pools could ignite if exposed to air--a fire that could spread between pools and be impossible to extinguish. Conversely, each dry cask would contain 50 bundles at most and would be a much tougher target.

Also, CP&L should stop shipping in more waste and making Harris a larger target; the cooling pools already contain 10 times the radioactivity released at Chernobyl. As you said, CP&L is the only utility transporting "spent" fuel rods; our plan will eliminate the risk of attacks on the slow-moving trains.

In challenging the Harris waste expansion, Orange County and N.C. WARN have argued for three years that the greatest risk is terrorism. Since 1993, terrorists have overtly threatened to attack nuclear plants. Before September, a federal program found that half the U.S. plants couldn't repel small teams of mock-terrorists. And The Times in London reports that the FBI believes the fourth jetliner on Sept. 11 might have been targeting Three Mile Island.

The federal GAO recently called the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository proposal "a failed scientific process" that could take 15 more years and tens of billions of dollars to complete, if ever. That's another reason why people across this region are calling for more decision makers to reject CP&L's corporate influence and to support reducing risks to the greatest extent possible.

Already endorsing risk reduction are two-dozen state and local officials, Union of Concerned Scientists' David Lochbaum, and two retired professors from N.C. State's nuclear program. We have called for CP&L to openly discuss these risk reduction measures. If it thinks we're wrong, CP&L can explain why at a regional meeting planned for January. The Triangle shouldn't have to live with the anxiety of an ever-increasing nuclear target at Shearon Harris.

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