Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant

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Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant
Shearon Harris Unit 1.jpg
Shearon Harris Unit 1
CountryUnited States
LocationNew Hill, Wake County, North Carolina
Coordinates35°38.0′N 78°57.3′W / 35.6333°N 78.9550°W / 35.6333; -78.9550Coordinates: 35°38.0′N 78°57.3′W / 35.6333°N 78.9550°W / 35.6333; -78.9550
Construction beganJanuary 28, 1978 (1978-01-28)
Commission dateMay 2, 1987
Construction cost$4.115 billion (2007 USD)[1]
Owner(s)Progress Energy
Operator(s)Progress Energy
Nuclear power station
Reactor typePWR
Reactor supplierWestinghouse
Cooling towers1 × Natural Draft
Cooling sourceHarris Lake
Thermal capacity1 × 2900 MWth
Power generation
Units operational1 × 928 MW
Make and modelWH 3-loop (DRYAMB)
Units cancelled3 × 900 MW
2 × 1117 MW AP1000
Nameplate capacity928 MW
Capacity factor101% (2017)
89.0% (lifetime)
Annual net output8209 GWh (2017)
External links
WebsiteHarris Nuclear Plant Fact Sheet
CommonsRelated media on Commons

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.).[2] 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, 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.[3] The NRC granted the renewal on December 17, 2008, extending the license from forty years to sixty.[4]

Units 2 & 3[edit]

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.[5]

Expansion of the plant would require raising the water level of Harris Lake by 20 feet,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

Reactor data[edit]

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.[10]

Reactor unit[11] 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[11] Westinghouse 3-loop 900 MW 960 MW 1 January 1978 Cancelled construction on 1 December 1983
Shearon Harris-3[12] Westinghouse 3-loop 900 MW 960 MW 1 January 1978 Cancelled construction on 1 December 1981
Shearon Harris-4[13] 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[edit]

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.[14]

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.[15][16]

Surrounding population[edit]

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.[17]

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).[18]

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.[19]

NC-WARN concerns[edit]

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".[20][21] However, the plant's technical and security systems have passed all Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) standards[22] 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[edit]

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:[23]

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."[24]

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.[25]


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.[26]


  1. ^ "EIA - State Nuclear Profiles". Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  2. ^ "NC Business Hall of Fame – Shearon Harris".
  3. ^ "Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant – License Renewal Application". Operating Reactor Licensing. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). December 1, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  4. ^ "Shearon Harris operating licence extended". World Nuclear News. December 18, 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-03-31. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  5. ^ "Submission for new nuclear at Harris". World Nuclear News. 19 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  6. ^ Murawski, John (2007-09-20). "Progress prepares for new reactors". Raleigh News & Observer. Retrieved 2007-10-18.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Three Mile Island generator moving to Shearon Harris". WRAL. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Duke Energy suspends licensing for nuclear reactors near Raleigh". Charlotte Business Journal. 2 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Duke Energy shelves plans for new reactors at Shearon Harris -- The News & Observer". NC WARN. 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2020-07-07.
  11. ^ a b "PRIS – Home".
  12. ^ Power Reactor Information System of the IAEA: Nuclear Power Reactor Details – SHEARON HARRIS-3 Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Power Reactor Information System of the IAEA: Nuclear Power Reactor Details – SHEARON HARRIS-4 Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^
  15. ^ Bill Dedman, "What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk," NBC News, March 17, 2011 Accessed April 19, 2011.
  16. ^ Patrick Hiland (September 2, 2010). "Implications of Updated Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Estimates in Central and Eastern United States on Existing Plants" (PDF). Safety/Risk Assessment Panel for Generic Issue 199. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2012-02-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ Bill Dedman, Nuclear neighbors: Population rises near US reactors, NBC News, April 14, 2011 Accessed May 1, 2011.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "NC WARN » The Most Dangerous U.S. N-Plant? NRC's Dishonest Rating System – A Report by NC WARN".
  21. ^ Sturgis, Sue (2006-03-29). "The Report is Bullshit". The Independent Weekly. Archived from the original on 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  22. ^ "4Q/2014 Performance Summary – Harris 1".
  23. ^ "4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina". Project Censored. Archived from the original on 2010-07-25.
  24. ^ "Pools of Fire". Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  25. ^ Murawski, John (2007-08-21). "Nuclear license fight dropped". Raleigh News & Observer. Archived from the original on 2007-08-24. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  26. ^ Murawski, John (2013-05-16). "Shearon Harris nuclear power plant shutdown because of cracking". The News & Observer. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2013.

External links[edit]