Nuclear Disasters

Nuclear Disasters

Nuclear power plants use the heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert water to steam, which powers generators to produce electricity. Although the construction and operation of these facilities are closely monitored and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), accidents are possible. An accident could result in dangerous levels of radiation that could affect the health and safety of the public living near the nuclear power plant.

Nuclear power plants operate in most states in the country and produce about 20 percent of the nation’s power. Nearly 3 million Americans live within 10 miles of an operating nuclear power plant.

Our Nuclear Plant

Brunswick County is home to the Brunswick Nuclear Plant, the first nuclear power plant built in North Carolina.

  • Location: Southport, NC
  • Operated By: Duke Energy
  • Type of Units: Boiling water nuclear reactors
  • Number of Units: 2
  • Generating Capacity: 1,870 megawatts
  • Commercial Operation Date: 1975

Nuclear Power Plant Safety & Awareness

Click the button to learn more from Duke Energy about how you can prepare for a nuclear power plant emergency.

Click on a tab below for more information

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a nuclear power plant emergency:

Build an Emergency Supply Kit with the addition of plastic sheeting, duct tape and scissors.

Make a Family Emergency Plan

Obtain public emergency information materials from the power company that operates your local nuclear power plant or your local emergency services office. If you live within 10 miles of the power plant, you should receive the materials yearly from the power company or your state or local government.

Sign up for emergency updates from Brunswick County Emergency Services via CodeRED to receive timely and specific information for your area.

If an accident at a nuclear power plant were to release radiation in your area, local authorities would activate warning sirens or another approved alert method. They also would instruct you through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on local television and radio stations on how to protect yourself.

Follow the EAS instructions carefully.

Minimize your exposure by increasing the distance between you and the source of the radiation. This could be evacuation or remaining indoors to minimize exposure.

If you are told to evacuate, keep car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air.

If you are advised to remain indoors, turn off the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace and other air intakes.

Shield yourself by placing heavy, dense material between you and the radiation source. Go to a basement or other underground area, if possible.

Stay out of the incident zone. Most radiation loses its strength fairly quickly.

The following are guidelines for the period following a nuclear power plant emergency:

Stay tuned to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.

Public shelters are locally managed and operated in response to events.  If you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home, go to a designated public shelter.  To find the nearest open shelter in your area, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA), example: shelter 12345.

Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous radiation.

Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.

Change your clothes and shoes; put exposed clothing in a plastic bag; seal it and place it out of the way.

Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms, such as nausea, as soon as possible.

Help a neighbor who may require special assistance – infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs may require additional assistance.

Return home only when authorities say it is safe.

Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator.

There are four classifications used to describe nuclear emergencies:

Unusual Event: This is the least serious of the four classifications. It means there is a minor operational or security problem at the plant. There is no impact to the public: No public action is needed.

Alert: This is the second classification in increasing significance and involves an operational/security event that may affect plant safety. There is no impact to the public. Emergency officials would prepare emergency centers for use if needed.

Site Area Emergency: This is the third in increasing significance and involves a major operational/security event that could affect plant safety. Sirens may sound to alert the public to listen to local radio/television stations for information. Radioactivity levels outside of the plant should not exceed federal guidelines.

General Emergency: This is the most serious of the four classifications and involves a serious operational event. Sirens may sound and state and local authorities would take action to protect the public. Local radio/television stations would give information and instructions. People in affected areas would be advised to stay indoors or evacuate.

Brunswick County Emergency Management
3325 Old Ocean Highway
P.O. Box 249
Bolivia, NC 28422
800.522.2366 (North Carolina only)

Emergency Notification (CodeRED)

New Hanover County Emergency Management
230 Government Center Drive
Suite 115
Wilmington, NC 28403

Emergency Public Information (only active in emergencies)

North Carolina Emergency Management
1636 Gold Star Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607

North Carolina Cooperative Extension

U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina
721 Medical Center Drive
Wilmington, NC 28403
(24/7 Command Center)
910.343.3880 or 910.343.3881 or 910.343.3882

Duke Energy Progress Customer Service Center

Brunswick Nuclear Plant
Corporate Communications

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

NRC Region II Atlanta

Health Departments/KI Information
New Hanover County

Brunswick County
910.253.2250 or 888.428.4429

KI Distribution Locations
Brunswick County Health Department
25 Courthouse Drive
Bolivia, NC 28422

New Hanover County Health Department
2029 South 17th Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

For online KI information visit:

If you are told to evacuate, it’s a good idea to bring the following items to the reception center/shelter:

Two changes of clothing

Two blankets or a sleeping bag for each person

Important personal papers

Toiletries such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.

Personal medications and prescriptions

Special baby formulas and/or food, and diapers

Battery operated radio, flashlight and batteries

If you’re going to a reception center/shelter for housing or other assistance, if possible bring some form of identification that shows your address.

Emergency plans are designed to protect you in the unlikely event of a nuclear station emergency. State and local governments have guidelines about when people should be protected from radiation. These guidelines call for protective actions at levels far below those that can make you sick. If radiation levels at or above those guidelines are expected, state and local officials will provide guidance to protect the public.

If there is an emergency at the nuclear station, state and county officials will provide information to the public via radio and television. You might be told to go inside and stay inside, shelter in place, evacuate and/or take potassium iodide (KI). Shelter in place, evacuating and taking potassium iodide are ways to reduce exposure to radiation. Sometimes staying indoors is safer than evacuating. Emergency officials will know which is better. Follow their instructions.

Go inside/stay inside

Go inside a building (home/office/etc.).

Stay indoors until officials tell you it is safe to leave.

Shelter in place

Go inside a building and stay there until you are told it is safe to leave.

Close all windows and doors. Turn off fans, air conditioners, heat pumps and forced air heat, which bring in outside air.

Go to the basement, if possible. If you don’t have a basement, go to a downstairs room in the center of the house. It should be a room without windows or outside doors.

Listen to local radio stations for instructions from emergency management officials.

Commercial supplies of water, milk and food will be checked for radiation, if necessary. Government officials will tell you if these are safe.

Evacuate to a reception center/shelter

Do not try to take all your belongings with you. You could be away from home for a few hours or a few days.

Turn off appliances and faucets. Lock all windows and doors.

Service animals (dogs trained to benefit those with disabilities) are welcome and will be accommodated at reception centers.

Get into your vehicle and close all windows and vents. Drive to your reception center and register. You can stay at the reception center or, after you register, you may stay with friends or relatives outside the protective action zone(s).

It is important to go to the reception center because:

If any radioactive material was found on you, it would be removed by changing clothes and washing. This process is called decontamination and is important to reduce radiation dose to yourself and others.

Local emergency management officials would need to know who has evacuated. They would also need to know where you are, so you could be contacted

Sign up for the Special Needs Registry.

Residents are strongly encouraged to sign up for the Brunswick County Special Needs Registry if they have additional needs in functional areas. These functional needs may include but are not limited to maintaining independence, communication, transportation, supervision, and medical care. Residents in the Access & Functional Needs (AFN) Registry will be contacted by our staff when an emergency event is anticipated or has occurred.

You should sign up for the Special Needs Registry if you or someone in your home:

  • Is deaf or hard of hearing and uses TDD equipment or requires assistance with daily activities.
  • Is confined to bed and requires a caretaker for assistance.
  • Requires a ventilator (breathing machine).
  • Is visually impaired and cannot drive a car.
  • Has cognitive issues such as loss of memory, speech, judgment, reasoning or emotional control.
  • Needs a ride and is unable to find one.
  • Experiences other problems that would require additional assistance during an evacuation.

If you have neighbors with access/functional needs, please reach out and help them as needed. Officials will care for individuals in nursing homes, rest homes or hospitals and take those needing medical care to hospitals and special-care facilities outside the 10-mile EPZ.

The best way to protect pets from exposure to radiation is to bring them inside as soon as possible. If evacuating, take your pets and pet care items with you. Check with your county emergency management office to determine what measures may or may not be available at your assigned reception center/evacuation shelter. Service animals (those trained to benefit people with disabilities) are welcome and will be accommodated at all evacuation shelters. Do not give pets potassium iodide unless prescribed by a veterinarian, since KI may be toxic/poisonous to animals. For questions about animal health, always consult your veterinarian.

More information can be found at the following websites:

Click on the image below to enlarge it.

A keystone of any plant’s preplanned protective action strategy involves two emergency planning zones (EPZs) around the plant.

Plume Exposure Pathway EPZ
The first EPZ is a plume exposure pathway extending about 10 miles in radius around the reactor site. Protective action plans within this area are designed to avoid or reduce dose from potential exposures such as inhaling radioactive particles. These actions include sheltering, evacuation, and the use of potassium iodide (KI) pills where appropriate.

Counties in the Brunswick Nuclear Plant 10-mile EPZ (plume exposure pathway zone) include:

  • Brunswick County
  • New Hanover County

Ingestion Exposure Pathway EPZ
The second EPZ is an ingestion exposure pathway extending about 50 miles in radius around the reactor site. Protective action plans for this area are designed to avoid or reduce dose from eating or drinking radioactive materials. These actions include a ban of contaminated food and water.

Counties in the Brunswick Nuclear Plant 50-mile IPZ (ingestion exposure pathway zone) include:

  • Bladen County
  • Columbus County
  • Pender County
  • Onslow County
  • Sampson County
  • Horry County, SC

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