Duke Energy lifts emergency at Brunswick nuclear plant; relief workers start to arrive

Duke Energy began ferrying workers by boat out of the Brunswick nuclear plant Tuesday as the 1,200-acre complex, about 4 miles inland, remains largely inaccessible by land.

The Charlotte-based electric utility also notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday to lift an emergency notification that Duke had filed Saturday when the Brunswick plant, 30 miles south of Wilmington, was cut off by rising water and workers could not get to the site in their cars.

Nearly 300 Duke employees, and two NRC “storm riders,” had spent days at the facility, sleeping on cots, using portable toilets and drinking bottled water because county water service is not available. Duke’s aviation service used a helicopter to bring in extra food on Monday.

Duke spokeswoman Rita Sipe said the company is bringing in fresh crews to relieve the workers on site; some hadn’t left the complex since the middle of last week. Sipe said the company would not disclose details about transporting workers by boat or discuss its plans to restart Brunswick’s twin nuclear reactors, which were untouched by flood waters.

Duke’s emergency notice alerted NRC of an “unusual event,” the lowest level of emergency at a U.S. nuclear facility, and did not indicate a threat to public safety.

The reactors were never at risk of flooding inside the facility, according to Duke and the NRC, but Duke shut them down as a precaution when Florence, then a Category 4 hurricane, approached the state.

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