HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — McGuire Nuclear Station generates enough energy to power two cities the size of Charlotte and is a highly-fortified facility.
Duke Energy officials took a Channel 9 crew into the protected area.
The crew underwent criminal background checks, and security cards were needed to open any doors along with an escort.
The next layer of protection includes X-rays and explosive-detection technology and once inside, the crew saw heavily-armed security officers.
Steven Capps is the site vice president and led the crew into the vital area of the facility where there were steam lines, turbines and generators that produce power.
However, the Channel 9 crew was not allowed in the containment building where the nuclear reactor vessel is located.
"We have a very robust security plan," Capps said.
In December, two nuclear security officers for Duke Energy told Channel 9 a proposal to take away their handguns posed an imminent threat.
Rifles are the officer's primary weapon.
Duke Energy officials said handguns are not required by industry regulators and denies money is driving any decision.
"We are still evaluating it,” Capps said. “But we believe, we know, we could eliminate the handguns and in no way degrade the protection that we provide to the station."
Independent security analyst Ross Bulla believes eliminating handguns would be a tactical mistake.
"I'd be shocked if they got rid of the side arms," Bulla said. “If you're inside, defending a facility, you don't use long arms clearing a hallway, going room to room. They're too long, you can't move around a corner with a rifle. You can with a pistol.”
Duke Energy officials insist overall security would not be compromised.
“We're very committed to the health and safety of the public,” Capps said.
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