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Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant
Shearon Harris Unit 1
Country United States
Location New Hill, Wake County, North Carolina
Coordinates 35°38.0′N 78°57.3′W / 35.6333°N 78.9550°W / 35.6333; -78.9550
Status Operational
Construction began January 28, 1978 (1978-01-28)
Commission date May 2, 1987
Construction cost $4.115 billion (2007 USD)
Owner(s) Progress Energy
Operator(s) Progress Energy
Harris Nuclear Plant Fact Sheet

The Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power plant with a single Westinghouse designed pressurized-water nuclear reactor operated by Duke Energy. It was named in honor of W. Shearon Harris, former president of Carolina Power & Light (predecessor of Progress Energy Inc.). Located in New Hill, North Carolina, in the United States, about 20 miles (30 km) southwest of Raleigh, it generates 900 MWe, has a 523-foot (160 m) natural draft cooling tower, and uses Harris Lake for cooling. The reactor achieved criticality in January 1987 and began providing power commercially on May 2 of that year.

The Shearon Harris site was originally designed for four reactors (and still has the space available for them), but cost and weakening demand despite a growing population resulted in three of the reactors being canceled. The final cost approached $3.9B, including safety upgrades mandated after the Three Mile Island accident.

On November 16, 2006, the operator applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a renewal and extension of the plant's operating license. The NRC granted the renewal on December 17, 2008, extending the license from forty years to sixty.

Units 2 & 3

On February 19, 2008 Progress filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL). It seeks to build two 1,100 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors. Although the NRC had already certified the AP1000 design, the application review was expected to take about 36 months. The new reactors would not be operational before 2018.

Expansion of the plant would require raising the water level of Harris Lake by 20 feet, decreasing the size of Wake County's largest park, with the Cape Fear River as a backup water source.

On January 22, 2010 officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the electrical generator from the damaged Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island would be used at Shearon Harris. The generator was refurbished and installed during a refueling outage in November, 2010.

On May 2, 2013, Duke submitted a request to the NRC to suspend review of the Harris Units 2 and 3 Combined License Application (COLA), effectively halting further development of this project. Duke has determined the forecast operating dates of the proposed reactors falls outside the fifteen-year planning horizon utilized by state regulators in their demonstration of need evaluation. The COLA remains docketed, however, leaving the door open for Duke to restart activities.

Reactor data

Simulations and training are run in this room, an exact duplicate of the control room of the operational reactor.

The Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant consists of one operational reactor. Three additional units were cancelled. Two additional reactors were planned and cancelled in 2013.

Reactor unit Reactor type Capacity Construction started Electricity grid connection Commercial operation Shutdown
Net Gross
Shearon Harris-1 Westinghouse 3-loop 900 MW 960 MW 28 January 1978 19 January 1987 2 May 1987
Shearon Harris-2 Westinghouse 3-loop 900 MW 960 MW 1 January 1978 Cancelled construction on 1 December 1983
Shearon Harris-3 Westinghouse 3-loop 900 MW 960 MW 1 January 1978 Cancelled construction on 1 December 1981
Shearon Harris-4 Westinghouse 3-loop 900 MW 960 MW 1 January 1978 Cancelled construction on 1 December 1981
Shearon Harris-2 (cancelled) AP1000 1117 MW MW
Shearon Harris-3 (cancelled) AP1000 1117 MW MW


Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspections

As of September 2017, the Harris plant is one of three out of the 99 plants in the country to have no Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) findings during the past 4 quarters of inspections.

The NRC's risk estimate for an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Shearon Harris was 1 in 434,783, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.

Surrounding population

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.

The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Shearon Harris was 96,401, an increase of 62.6 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data for The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 2,562,573, an increase of 26.0 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include Raleigh (21 miles to city center), Durham (24 miles to city center), Fayetteville (39 miles to city center).

During FEMA's most recent evaluation of state and local government's plans and preparedness included emergency operations for the plant, no deficiencies or areas requiring corrective actions were identified.

NC-WARN concerns

The anti-nuclear group "N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network" (NC-WARN) questioned the facility's safety and security record calling it "insufficient" and claiming "it is the most dangerous nuclear plant in the US". However, the plant's technical and security systems have passed all Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) standards as of 2008, including protection and security, and no worker or area resident has been injured as a result of the plant's operation.

Spent fuel pools

In 2010, Project Censored, a non-profit, investigative journalism project, ranked the safety issues at Shearon Harris the 4th most under-reported story of the year, because of the risk of fires at what are the largest spent-fuel pools in the country:

Between 1999 and 2003, there were twelve major problems requiring the shutdown of the plant. According to the NRC, the national average for commercial reactors is one shutdown per eighteen months.... Congressman David Price of North Carolina sent the NRC a report by scientists at MIT and Princeton that pinpointed the waste pools as the biggest risk at the plant. "Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly and catch fire," wrote Bob Alvarez, a former advisor to the Department of Energy and co-author of the report. "The fire could well spread to older fuel. The long-term land contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than Chernobyl."

In August 2007, NC WARN dropped a lawsuit against Progress Energy that was intended to delay or prevent expansion of Shearon Harris, claiming that continuing the legal battle would cost at least $200,000.


On May 16, 2013, Shearon Harris Unit 1 initiated an unplanned shutdown when reviews of ultrasonic data from a refueling outage in spring 2012 determined a 1/4" flaw was inside the 6"-thick Reactor Pressure Vessel Head. The flaw was near the nozzle for a control rod drive mechanism and attributed to primary water stress corrosion cracking, though no actual leakage was detected. Due to high radiation levels, the repairs required robotic aid.

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