Already, North Carolina Emergency Management has reported more than 600,000 are without power, and six nuclear power plants owned by Duke Energy are bracing for impact. At a press conference attended by CNN, a representative from FEMA said the power plants were not yet a concern for the agency.
Those watching the storm are anxious to know if the flooding could cause a disaster comparable to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Lee Cox from the radiation protection section of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services says the Brunswick power plant four miles inland from the state’s coast was shut down when winds exceeded 70 mph, a cautionary procedure.
“We are not concerned because we realize they are designed to withstand a storm much greater than Florence,” says Cox.
He says plants like those in North Carolina should be able to withstand wind speeds of up to 200 mph and have safeguards like flood barriers, back-up generators, and emergency pumps ready should flood waters impact operations.
During a telephone news conference with reporters, representatives from Duke Energy said that emergency equipment is in place at its Brunswick plant should it be needed, and workers are on site to ensure it works properly.
“Because Fukushima happened, it’s less likely for this to lead to that outcome,” says Dave Lochbaum, a former nuclear engineer who now directs the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group.