CHARLOTTE – Local and national energy officials say the United States is safe as Japan continues to monitor its nuclear radiation crisis. The situation has raised questions since there are several nuclear plants in North Carolina.
Three damaged nuclear reactors continue to leak radiation and cause concern in Japan.
The safety crisis isn't being lost on Duke Energy officials in North Carolina.
"We have a saying in the nuclear industry, 'an accident anywhere, is an accident everywhere,'” Steve Nesbit of Duke Energy said.
Japanese officials evacuated more than 200,000 people within miles of one of the damaged nuclear reactors as they work to minimize the impact and to get the facilities under control.
It's a relevant issue in the Carolinas, which has seven active nuclear power units, including the McGuire station in Huntersville.
Employees at nuclear facilities undergo constant training to handle worst case scenarios.
"We have many safety systems, backups for backups, redundancy in place. So, we don't rely on just one thing to provide safety," Nesbit said.
While Japan recovers from its nuclear crisis, Duke Energy already has plans underway to build another nuclear facility near Gaffney, S.C., a proposal which has its opponents.
"It's pretty clear the number of plants being proposed for the Southeast is more than we're going to need,” Peter Bradford said.
Bradford will take part in a hearing in Raleigh Tuesday. The North Carolina Utilities Commission will hear arguments on whether Duke Energy should spend an additional $287 million in development costs for the estimated $11 billion nuclear project.
"My testimony indicates that Duke Energy is seeking to shift a lot of the economic risk associated with building the project to its customers,” Bradford said.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy officials hope the current Japanese headlines won't adversely affect how the commission evaluates other nuclear projects on the horizon.
"I think it's important that we in this country don't make knee jerk decisions about what to do about our energy future in the middle of a crisis," Nesbit said.
The State Utilities Commission is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether Duke Energy can spend the additional startup money on the South Carolina nuclear facility.
There are several more hurdles to clear before construction begins, but the plant could be in operation by 2020.
Almost half of all electricity in the Carolinas come from nuclear energy.