Duke Energy may take handguns from security at nuclear plants

by: Paul Boyd Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two Duke Energy insiders said they're risking their jobs to speak out about a proposal aimed at taking handguns away from nuclear security officers.

Duke Energy operates six nuclear power plants in the Carolinas. They're among the most highly secured and fortified facilities in the country.

Terrorist groups consider nuclear power plants high-value targets.

"We're only there for one reason. To stop a breach into that plant," one of the nuclear security officers said.

We've hidden the faces and altered the voices of the security officers in our report.

They agreed to speak to Whistleblower 9 because of what they feel is an imminent safety threat -- a Duke Energy proposal to take away their handguns.

"If they take these weapons away, they're not providing what we need to protect these plants," one officer said.

"Taking away the handgun would provide us with zero backup. It's a safety issue. It's an officer safety issue," the other officer said.

Rifles are the nuclear security officer's primary weapon but they say their handguns are a crucial backup weapon if a rifle jams or fails.

"In this day and time with the terrorist activity escalating, taking away half of our weapons platform -- that is ludicrous," one officer said.

Channel 9 confirmed a proposal is in place to take away the security guard's handguns.

We obtained an internal document from Duke Energy that reads "efficiency bulletin" and "handgun elimination" for nuclear security officers.

The document says it is Duke Energy's "intent" to move forward with the plan.

On Friday, Duke Energy acknowledged for the first time that weapon discussions are taking place.

"Right now, we are evaluating the weaponry that our security officers use," Rita Sipe, a Duke Energy spokesperson, said.

But Duke Energy denied a final decision has been made.

Whistleblower 9 investigator Paul Boyd pointed out the word "intent" from the internal document.

"We have not made that decision. That is something that we are currently evaluating," Sipe said.

The internal document also references an effort "to reduce nuclear costs by 30 percent."

"The company decided to cut cost at the expense of our safety," said one officer.

Duke denies money is driving any security decision.

"Cost does not override the safe and secure operation of our nuclear facilities. Our security officers are highly trained, highly skilled and well-armed," Sipe said.

Duke Energy revealed to Channel 9 that
it is adding a new weapons system to strengthen defenses at its nuclear facilities but offered no details or timeline for implementation.

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