Carolina and Virginia electric utilities are warning customers to be prepared for widespread and lengthy outages in the wake of Hurricane Florence. At the same time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is ramping up inspections and reviewing storm operations of nuclear plants that could be affected by the storm.
In a news release, the NRC specifically called out Duke Energy's 40-year-old Brunswick Nuclear Plant, south of Wilmington, N.C., as one that could face "winds, major storm surges and heavy rain." The plant has two General Electric Boiling Water Reactors, the same reactor technology that was used in Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Unlike the Fukushima plant, which was right on the ocean, the Brunswick plant is perched on the bank of the Cape Fear River a few miles upstream from its mouth and the Atlantic Ocean.
Duke Energy says it expects 1 million to 3 million customers will lose power. "It's important for people to know this is no ordinary storm and customers could be without power for a very long time—not days, but weeks," said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy's incident commander. The company says it has staged 20,000 personnel to begin restoration after Florence passes. It is bringing in power restoration crews from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Florida utilities to help. Duke also is preparing to call for aid from other utilities. South Carolina Electric and Gas says it has 2,800 people on standby to help restore power.
The storm could also affect delivery to the Northeast of gasoline and other refined products via the Colonial and Plantation pipelines. Both lines go through the threatened areas of the Carolinas.
The Environmental Protection Agency has also waived certain fuel requirements to help make gasoline and fuel readily available in the region.