Plant Spotlight: Harris Nuclear Plant

Harris_Plant_cooling_tower_lakeHarris Nuclear Plant can produce enough electricity to power more than a half million homes, has a 523-foot cooling tower and is made with enough concrete to pave 75 miles of four-lane highway. The plant also has 24 million pounds of reinforced steel and enough power cables to run between the east and west coasts 1 1/2 times.

The single-unit, pressurized water reactor located near New Hill, N.C., about 22 miles southwest of Raleigh, is jointly owned by the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy. It was named after Shearon Harris, a former president of Carolina Power & Light, a predecessor company.

Permit requests for the plant were submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1971 and groundbreaking took place in 1978. During the span of 16 years, more than 2,000 workers—ranging from engineers to construction workers, reactor operators and administrative professionals—worked to prepare the plant for commercial operation. The site was originally designed for four reactors but due to changing economic conditions, the plant was scaled back to one unit.

Harris Nuclear Plant began generating power on May 2, 1987, making it the newest nuclear unit in the Carolinas.  

Safety is the cornerstone of all operations at the plant. Multiple layers of safety systems and structures protect the plant and surrounding community.  The reactor and steam generators are housed inside a containment structure designed to withstand the impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and airborne objects.  Its walls are 4 1/2 feet thick and made up of nine layers of steel-reinforced concrete. In addition to multiple safety and plant shutdown systems, in-depth defense and emergency response plans are coordinated and practiced regularly with local, state and federal officials.

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Harris Nuclear plant is a safe, reliable and environmentally friendly generator of electricity. Nuclear plants have one of the smallest environmental footprints of any generating source.  Harris alone prevents more than 4 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

Harris Lake was built on 4,100 acres of land to provide water that is pumped into the plant for cooling and produces a visible plume of clean water vapor that rises from the cooling tower. The plant’s property, including Harris Lake, is an important community resource, providing outdoor recreation areas for the public and wildlife habitats.

The lake is regularly used for boating, swimming and fishing.  Almost 700 acres of land around the plant are leased to Harris Lake County Park, 500 acres are designated as a forestry research tract and more than 14,000 acres are part of the North Carolina Wildlife Commission Game Lands Program.

Harris Nuclear Plant has operated safely for more than 20 years and is committed to being a safe, reliable source of electricity and a good neighbor in the local community.

To learn more about the plant, visit the Harris Energy and Environmental Center, featuring exhibits on electricity generation and transmission, alternative energy, energy efficiency and the benefits of nuclear power. 

Watch a video about Harris Nuclear Plant.