updated 11/2/2005 8:51:36 AM ET 2005-11-02T13:51:36

Progress Energy Inc. has given notice that it intends to seek licenses to build up to four nuclear reactors at two locations — most likely in North Carolina and Florida.

“We add about 30,000 new customers in North Carolina and Florida per year and we need significant (power) generation,” Progress Energy spokesman Keith Poston said. “We think nuclear power may be the best option for us and that’s why we moving aggressively with our plans.”

Progress Energy, which serves 2.9 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida, unveiled its plans Tuesday during a public meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Rockville, Md..

Last week, Charlotte-based Duke Power Co. said it plans to ask federal regulators for a license to build and operate a nuclear plant in the Carolinas.

Progress Energy’s plans are even more ambitious.

“I don't believe there is another licensee who has indicated it plans to build more than one (plant),” said NRC spokesman Roger Hannah, who is based in Atlanta.

Activist group upset
Jim Warren, executive director of the anti-nuclear group North Carolina Waste Awareness Reduction Network, worried about Progress Energy and Duke Power targeting the Carolinas for nuclear plants.

“I'm concerned that we can't lead the nation in this,” he said. “We feel the Carolinas have the opportunity to be the model for smart energy or become the nation's nuclear chumps.”

Poston said the announcement was just the start of a long process. “There will be a lot of public input and a lot of interest about where we decide to site these two plants,” he said during a telephone interview. “Our goal is to put one in North Carolina and another in Florida.”

Progress Energy officials previously said they were looking for one site for a a two-reactor plant.

At least five other utilities in the nation have also indicated they intend to apply for plant licenses.

Possible timeline
The Progress Energy application would be submitted to the NRC by 2008, construction would begin two years later and the reactors would operate as early as 2015, according to the company. The company said it is still accepting bids and would not speculate on a cost for the projects.

A nuclear power plant hasn’t opened in North Carolina since 1987, when what is now Progress Energy began operations at its Shearon Harris plant about 25 miles southwest of Raleigh.

President Bush signed an energy bill last month offering millions of dollars in incentives for building nuclear reactors.

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