|Fig. 1: The Mcguire Nuclear Station situated on Lake Norman. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) - - RBL|
North Carolina is home to 4 separate nuclear power stations. The Mcguire Nuclear Power Station serves the states' largest city, Charlotte, and its surrounding area. The station is controlled by Duke Energy which is the regions only electricity company. Named after the former president of Duke Energy, Mcguire's first Pressurized Water reactor began commercial operation in 1981. 3 years later the second reactor was up and running and since then the two have been combining to generate approximately 2200 megawatts of electricity.  The station is located in Huntersville, a suburb about 15 miles north of Charlotte, on the edge of Lake Norman and sits on 800 acres of land owned by Duke Energy. The lake, which is a reservoir of the Catawba River, was built by Duke energy in 1963 as a part of the Cowans Ford Dam project. Today the lake powers the generators for the dam and cools off the turbines of the Mcguire Station and the adjacent Marshall steam Station.
Often people worry about the safety of Nuclear Plants in their communities.Both reactors at Mcguire are made of 8.5 inch steel and the containment building housing each reactor sits on an 8-foot-thick concrete base resting on bedrock. On top of that, each building is made of concrete 3 feet thick with a 3/4-inch-thick steel liner. The plant was engineered to withstand a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.  While earthquakes are relatively uncommon to North Carolina, in 1886 a quake registered a 7.3 thus becoming the basis for the plants Earthquake resistance plan. Rows of chain-link fencing and razor wire surround the buildings and grounds,video cameras are positioned just about everywhere, and emergency communication systems such as sirens have always been in place in order to alert the community in the event of a malfunction. The plant is also prepared to withstand a ground level terrorist attack.  The National Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a team of ex Navy Seals on hand who periodically attempt to infiltrate the facility. To this day none of their pseudo attacks have been successful. The plant is currently compliant with all NRC standards of safety and Health.
The Mcguire station has a unique relationship with its community. While many nuclear plants are just planted upon a society, one could say that this particular plant is integrated with its environment and community.  McGuire pulls about 1 million gallons of water from Lake Norman per minute to cool the outsides of scalding hot pipes used in the power generation process. The water is the released back into the lake but at a higher temperature than before creating a more welcoming ecosystem for different types of fish due to the warm water. Locals call this part of the lake a "hothole" and Duke Energy has made it into a fishing park, with a parking lot, so that locals can come fish the warmer waters at no cost. Duke Energy also has an energy museum adjacent to the plant for interested visitors and tours of the plant itself are sometimes available to the public.  The wide-open spaces surrounding the nuclear plant provide an idyllic spot for enjoying an evening concert or outdoor movie. If you have a boat, you can anchor it in the cove and watch from the water. The concerts and movies are free making this outdoor adventure a popular weekend getaway for locals.
© Peter Kalambayi. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 D. Vieser, "Public May Not Know About Nuclear Plant Safety Features," Charlotte Observer, 25 Apr 11.
 "In the Matter of Duke Power company, William B. McGuire Nuclear Station, Units 1 and 2," Nuclear Regulatory Commission Issuances, 9 NRC 489 (1979), p. 522.
 C. Tittel, "Safety Emphasized at Mcguire Nuclear Station," Hunterville Herald Weekly, 16 Apr 15.
 "10 Free Things Every Charlottean Should do at Least Once," Charlotte Observer, 9 Sep 15.