CASTLE HAYNE, NC (WWAY) -- The Cape Fear area may soon be home to uranium enrichment.
Earlier this week, the GE-Hitachi facility in Castle Hayne received federal approval to enrich uranium using laser technology. But what exactly does that mean, and what are the implications to our community?
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed a facility to enrich uranium using classified laser technology. If built, it would be the first plant of its kind in the world, and right here in New Hanover County.
Christopher White, a spokesman for GE-Hitachi in Castle Hayne, says the much cheaper and more efficient process has taken 40 years to develop.
"A company in australia called Silex Systems actually kind of broke the code," White said. "GE-Hitachi actually licensed that technology from Silex."
GE-Hitachi says the plant could provide enriched uranium to about half of the country's nuclear reactors, providing hundreds of jobs to our area and a step toward energy independence for the US.
But what about the risks? If GE-Hitachi decides to build the $1 billion plant, should we be worried that uranium is being enriched in our area?
"Our license from the NRC allows us to enrich uranium to eight percent," White said. "That could only be used for commercial purposes. A nuclear weapon or nuclear material that would be used for defense purposes would have an enrichment of over 90 percent."
Some still worry that letting GE-Hitachi use the laser technology could increase the risk of it falling into the wrong hands. White says because of its complexity, the chances of that are extremely unlikely.
WWAY reached out to members of Stop Titan, an organization against the building of a cement plant in Castle Hayne, to get their take on the enrichment plant. One person we spoke with says the two facilities are completely different, but still have some unanswered questions they want addressed.