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Hurricane Florence: North Carolina fears possible environmental disaster via The Guardian

Waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites could wash into homes and contaminate drinking water

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There are 16 nuclear reactors in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, the states expected to suffer the most damage from Florence.

Duke Energy, which runs reactors at six sites, has said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.

Brunswick nuclear plant, located south of Wilmington near the mouth of the Cape Fear river, was identified in 2014 by Huffpost and Weather.com as one of the nuclear facilities most at risk from rising sea levels and resulting floods.

The Brunswick plant’s two reactors are of the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Following that disaster, federal regulators required all US nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.

Duke Energy did not respond to requests for information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater at the plant if it floods. The company issued assurances this week that it is ready for Florence, which is predicted to pack winds of up to 140mph and a 13ft storm surge.

“They were safe then. They are even safer now,” said Kathryn Green, a Duke spokeswoman, referring to the post-Fukushima improvements. “We have backups for backups for backups.”

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