Nuclear power plant (illustration)
Nuclear power plant (illustration)Thinkstock

Two nuclear power plants in the state of Florida lie in the expected path of Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.

Officials at the Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) remain unsure whether to shut down the plants, located in Turkey Point and St. Lucie Florida, Fox News reported.

Peter Robbins, a spokesperson for FPL, said that it takes time to shut down a nuclear reactor, and that the decision on whether to do so will be made “well in advance” of the hurricane's landfall.

“If we anticipate there will be direct impacts on either facility we’ll shut down the units,” Robbins told the Miami Herald.

Hurricane Irma is expected to strike Florida this Saturday.

The category 5 hurricane struck the Caribbean islands of Barbuda and Antigua Wednesday, and was expected to strike Puerto Rico before reaching Florida. The storm had a maximum sustained wind-speed of 185 miles per hour at its height, making it one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded. The hurricane has killed at least 10 people so far.

According to Robbins, the two nuclear plants are situated well above sea-level and are protected from hurricanes.

"For the top of the plant to be underwater ... if there were flooding on the plant, we could absolutely stay safe,” Robbins told TC Palm. “We designed the plant to handle that, the systems at the plant to handle that.”

Both plants have weathered hurricanes in the past. Turkey Point withstood a hit from Hurricane Andrew, another category 5 storm, in 1992, and St. Lucie withstood two hurricanes in 2005.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency on Monday evening in every county in the state in preparation for Hurricane Irma.