Florence is about to make landfall in N Carolina

Brunswick Nuclear station

The Brunswick nuclear station in North Carolina which is in the expected path of Hurricane Florence. Dima Buzhenko Google Maps

They also have prepared their backup diesel generators to make sure the plants have enough fuel to keep producing power.

"We remain in constant communications with local, state and federal officials regarding the status of the plant", the company reported in a press release, "and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with inspectors on-site, remains informed of our plans regarding plant shutdown". As a precaution, the power plant's reactor (s) must be shut down at least two hours before the storm's strongest winds arrive.

Since Fukushima, all US reactors have been upgraded with additional safety equipment, including portable pumps and generators to keep cooling water circulating through the reactor in case the plant loses offsite power.

Hurricane Florence nuclear plants
The two nuclear plants and the predicted path of Hurricane Florence. Google Maps

There are multiple layers of protection at nuclear plants.

Six power plants in North and SC appear set to be smashed by the Category 4 hurricane when it makes landfall on Friday, according to Duke Energy spokeswoman Mary Green.

"This is no ordinary storm and customers could be without power for a very long time - not days, but weeks", said Fowler. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew's landfall brought down power lines and flooded transformers, leaving more than two million customers without power across several states. The number of dots at each location indicates the number of reactors housed at that station.

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Before Hurricane Irma made landfall in South Florida in September of 2017, Florida Power and Light originally planned to shut down the Turkey Point reactors 24 hours in advance of landfall, but ultimately made the decision to leave one of them online as Irma's path changed.

The two reactors at the site, which entered service in 1975 and 1977, are of similar design to some of the reactors damaged at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after an natural disaster and tsunami in 2011.

The US gets about one-fifth of its electricity from nuclear energy but the region where Hurricane Florence will have the biggest impact relies on it more heavily.

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The disaster began when a tsunami caused by the Tohoku quake disabled emergency generators used to cool nuclear reactors, causing multiple meltdowns, followed by explosions and the release of radioactive material.

USA power companies said more than 870,000 homes and businesses, mostly in North Carolina and SC, were without power on Saturday after Florence hit the Southeast coast. "We know how to prepare our plants for these types of major events". The company last shut Brunswick due to hurricane force winds in the 1990s, she said.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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