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City at Risk 

Originally written by Tara Servatius, Sept. 4, 2002

Charlotteans live closer to multiple big nuclear plants than any other city in the nation. We thought the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was the right time to look into how well the city's nukes were protected from terrorist attacks, and how well the county's evacuation plans would work. This was a remarkable investigation by Creative Loafing's Tara Servatius; she worked in collaboration with reporters from the New York Daily News who had previously studied the issue of protection for nuclear facilities.

The stories that resulted from the long, hard examination made it clear just how vulnerable the Charlotte region is to a disastrous attack on its nuclear plants — no matter what plant owners tell the public about the thick walls around the reactors.

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Short version: They're lying to us. Also revealed was the "wish upon a star" fantasy of county evacuation plans (which are still largely the same today, by the way), in which everyone does exactly what "the authorities" tell them to do, in the precise order the authorities tell them to do it, without the normal human instinct to flee with loved ones, which takes over in every big emergency anywhere.

It made for grim reading, but it was a proud journalistic moment. Reaction by other local media, as we expected, was to stare mutely like cows watching trains go by, and then forget about the issue.

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