Nuclear Safety & Security
Safety and security are the highest priority at all nuclear power plants operated by Duke Energy. Our nuclear program is designed with multiple barriers and redundant and diverse safety systems to ensure the safe, secure operation of our nuclear stations every day.
Nuclear power plants are among the most secure facilities in the world today. To ensure the safety of nuclear plants, the U.S. nuclear industry is heavily regulated by strict guidelines from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Nuclear plants are built to withstand a wide variety of external forces, including hurricanes, tornados, fires, floods and earthquakes. In regards to earthquakes, nuclear plants are constructed to withstand earthquakes of the magnitude equivalent to or greater than the largest known earthquake for the region where they are located.
The containment buildings that house the nuclear reactor are many times stronger than typical office buildings and skyscrapers. Nuclear plants also have numerous safety systems and physical barriers to prevent the release of radioactive materials and protect the public, plant workers and the environment.
A study conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute shows that reactor and fuel structures at U.S. nuclear power plants would protect against a release of radiation even if struck by a large commercial jetliner. A nuclear reactor is surrounded by a number of structures that would reduce the effectiveness of such “targeting” and would limit the effects of an impact.
The building itself is one of the strongest structures made by man. If a building were hit, there are redundant safety systems that would activate to protect the fuel.
Nuclear stations have numerous security features, both visible and unseen. These include being guarded 24 hours a day by armed, well-trained security forces; physical intrusion barriers consisting of concrete structures and razor wire fences; and advanced surveillance equipment which continually monitors the areas surrounding the plant.
Within a few hours of the Sept. 11, 2001 events, Duke Energy nuclear stations went to a heightened security status and remain there today. Although we cannot discuss specific security measures, we can share general information.
Plant access is tightly controlled by both security forces and sophisticated security devices, such as palm recognition screening and weapons and explosives detectors. Nuclear employees must pass stringent background investigations, psychological evaluations and drug and alcohol screenings. Employees and contractors are subject to continual monitoring and screening.
Our nuclear security programs are evaluated for effectiveness on a regular basis by both the company and the NRC. Duke Energy nuclear plants meet all requirements set forth by the NRC and have performed well during security drills and tests. The company’s security training programs and facilities are among the best in the industry. We also work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, federal security agencies and the intelligence community.
What do I do in an emergency?
The states, counties and Duke Energy have detailed plans for handling emergencies. These plans are closely coordinated and well-practiced. To keep the public informed, neighbors who live within 10 miles of the station receive emergency planning information annually in a calendar mailed to their homes. In the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency, the public would be advised to tune to a local emergency alert station for further instructions and information.
Learn more about Duke Energy’s nuclear emergency preparedness.