The road to the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant winds through Georgia pines, past the massive International Paper mill where many trees meet their end, and on toward the Savannah River, which forms the border with South Carolina. A couple of miles out, the 55-story steel-and-cement cooling towers loom over the tree line. Cottony white vapor rises from the towers in what one hopes is a friendly, nonradioactive greeting from the nuclear facility.
Less friendly is the white security pickup with a yellow roof flasher that materializes when I pull my rental car to the side of River Road to take in the view. Provisionally satisfied I’m not a terrorist, the guard lets me head to the military-style entry station, where another security man with a Glock on his hip points to a glassed-in rendezvous point. Credentials are checked, and introductions are made to plant staff. They’re proud of the work they do, but on high alert against sabotage and bad publicity.