Sep 12, 2018

Nuclear energy plants brace for Hurricane Florence

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

George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

4 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

Klobuchar squares off with Buttigieg on immigration

Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."