Duke Energy has safely operated nuclear power plants in the Carolinas for more than 40 years. The company, which includes predecessor Progress Energy and Carolina Power & Light (CP&L), sited and built the first commercial nuclear reactor in the Southeast in 1971, the H.B. Robinson Plant in Hartsville, S.C. Robinson was soon followed by the three reactors at Oconee, S.C. in 1973, and two reactors at the Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, N.C. in 1975.
Of the company's 11 operating reactors, the Harris Nuclear Plant, in New Hill, N.C., came on line last in 1987.
Building a power plant
Then-CP&L first began investigating the Harris site, about 22 miles southwest of Raleigh, for construction of a possible nuclear power plant in the 1960s. The Triangle area of the state was growing quickly and it was clear that additional electricity was needed to meet the needs of the company’s customers.
In early 1971, after extensive planning, the company announced plans to file with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a construction permit to build the Harris Nuclear Plant. The permit, issued in 1978, gave the company permission to construct a four-unit nuclear power plant.
While the Harris Nuclear Plant site was originally planned for four nuclear reactors, only one reactor was ultimately built due to changing economic conditions. Population growth had leveled off and energy consumption was not increasing at previously forecast rates.
After 16 years of construction, the Harris Nuclear Plant began generating power for the Carolinas on May 2,1987.
In 2008, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved then-Progress Energy’s request to extend the operating license of the Harris Nuclear Plant another 20 years, through 2046.
One step the Harris Nuclear Plant has taken to ensure it is a viable source of energy for years to come is to increase the plant’s output. In 2010, the plant began a six-year project to increase electrical output by about 60 more megawatts, or enough power to supply about 70,000 additional homes with electricity.
In the industry, these increases are known as “uprates.” Uprates are a safe and efficient way to provide more carbon-free megawatts for our customers. The increase in output is usually achieved through equipment replacement and gained efficiencies. At Harris, the upgrades have included replacing the main electric generator and other turbine-related projects.
Harris Nuclear Plant today
Harris' capacity was 860 megawatts when the plant was built. Today, the plant generates 928 megawatts, enough to power around one million homes and businesses.
The Harris Nuclear Plant employs around 500 direct employees and an additional 300 contingent employees.