Building two nuclear reactors in Wake County could cost Progress Energy customers more than $9.3 billion.
The cost estimate, disclosed this month to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is Progress Energy's latest projection for the Shearon Harris proposal. It doubles the previous estimate of $4.4 billion provided in February, when the Raleigh utility applied to the NRC for a license to build two reactors at the site in Wake County.
For nuclear critics, soaring costs offer the strongest case against building new plants. The power industry has long argued that nuclear plants produce the cheapest electricity, but those arguments have been buried under an avalanche of contrary evidence.
Progress has resisted issuing cost estimates for the Shearon Harris project, saying such projections are imprecise and meaningless.
"At the end of the day, you don't know what these things are going to cost until you sign the contracts," spokesman Rick Kimble said.
But Progress updated its estimate this month in response to N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, a Durham group that is challenging the utility's license application.
"Progress Energy is still low-balling," said Jim Warren, the group's director.
N.C. WARN contends that runaway costs pose an enormous gamble to the public. The group warns that nuclear projects today risk the same cost overruns that derailed about 60 nuclear projects in the 1970s and 1980s.
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