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Duke shuts Brunswick nuclear plant in North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Washington — For the second time in a year, Duke Energy is shutting its two-unit Brunswick nuclear plant near Wilmington, North Carolina, in advance of the arrival of a hurricane.

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Plant operators told the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thursday that the 1,978-MW station would be shut soon as required by regulations, an agency spokesman said.

Hurricane Dorian was a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 mph Thursday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said in an update. The eye of the storm was just off the South Carolina coast and the forecast carries the storm along the North Carolina coast and possibly onto land briefly overnight before eventually moving out to sea, the center said.

Brunswick plant spokeswoman Karen Williams said forecasts call for hurricane force winds to arrive at the site, and that Duke was preparing to shut the two units. While the units are designed to withstand heavy winds and flooding, US nuclear reactors must be shut as a precaution at least two hours before winds over 74 miles per hour are forecast to arrive. Plants also take steps such as securing debris, protecting entrances from water entry and staging personnel and supplies at plants.

NRC is keeping two resident inspectors at Brunswick overnight in case access to the site is difficult during the storm, agency spokesman Roger Hannah said.

The two Brunswick units shut September 14, 2018 in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Flooding in areas around the plant prevented workers from entering or leaving for several days and the units did not return to service for about eight days.

Dominion Energy's Surry nuclear station near Newport News, Virginia, is also preparing for the arrival of the storm, although the company has no plans to shut the two reactors at that site, Hannah said.

-- William Freebairn,

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,