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Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the East Coast. Photo: NOAA via Getty Images

Several nuclear power plants in North Carolina and nearby states are bracing for Hurricane Florence, including a plant right in its path with the same design as the Japanese reactors that melted down in 2011 when a tsunami knocked out backup power.

Why it matters: While the probability is very low, the risk of a storm-fueled accident at a nuclear plant could be devastating and threaten the health of tens of thousands of people living nearby.

Between the lines: All kinds of energy production and generation get attention only when things could go wrong or have gone wrong — but particularly nuclear given its controversial reputation. It’s worth pointing out that nuclear plants have "consistently proven hardy against hurricanes," according to an in-depth Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observer piece published Wednesday.

Driving the news: Florence is the first big test of Duke Energy’s Brunswick plant near Wilmington, North Carolina, since it installed additional safeguards in response to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, the Observer reports.

The details, per the Observer:

  • The plant is 4 miles inland and built to withstand maximum sustained winds of a Category 5 hurricane, over 200 miles per hour.
  • The biggest risk is flooding, the newspaper notes: "Brunswick is built at an elevation of 20 feet above sea level and designed to withstand a storm surge of 22 feet, which would leave the plant’s emergency generators high and dry."
  • Since 2011, federal regulators required Brunswick to install flood barriers in advance of a hurricane, along with other upgrades.
  • At least 2 inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will ride out the storm in the plant.
"They were safe then. They are even safer now. We have backups for backups for backups."
— Kathryn Green, Duke spokesperson, referring to post-Fukushima improvements, per Fox News and Reuters.

Go deeper: Hurricane Florence to cause "unbelievable destruction" in Carolinas

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.