A year ago, Rolland Elliott found a dream foreclosure - a big unfinished house on the cheap in a buyer's market, on a quiet street not far from the western edge of Lake Wylie.
Sure, there was one other thing to consider when weighing a bargain basement dream home - the nuclear power plant across the street.
"People from other places ask where I live," Elliott said. "I tell them, 'Look for the water vapor cloud, and I am almost underneath it.' "
Actually, Duke Energy's Catawba Nuclear Station is probably a half-mile away, still across the street.
But just three weeks ago, a nuclear plant's reactor leaks in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami started to turn heads for the first time in years over concerns about what could happen near a nuclear plant.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in Japan and there remains concern worldwide about radioactivity.
The only thing between Elliott's bedroom and the Catawba plant is a stand of trees, then a field, the plant's excellent safety record over the past 26 years, and Elliott's confidence in the plant.
"Before Japan, I thought if anything happened over there, I'd be dead," Elliott said. "But, actually, this has eased my mind, because Japan has showed that there is plenty of time to escape.
"And in the United States, we have a good record of nuclear safety. But I have that vapor cloud every day to remind me where I live."
Certainly there are huge differences between Japan and the Catawba plant that sends up that water vapor cloud that can be seen almost all the time, and for miles on clear days.
As Elliott and emergency officials say, there is far less threat of earthquakes here. The plant was built to withstand all kinds of natural and man-made disasters.
But still - what if the nuclear plant is your next-door neighbor?
Does the plant feel more like the great neighbor who gives out those great big Three Musketeers bars at Halloween, or the grouchy old man who snarls and gives nothing, or the goody-goodies who give toothbrushes?
'This is home'
Judy Rowland has lived next-door to the plant property for 35 years - even watched as it was built. The plant is right through a stand of trees from her home, her family, her whole life.
"Living this close, you never really forget that the plant is right here," Rowland said. "And after Japan, it seems like it is a little bit closer than ever.
"It always has made us just a little bit nervous, but not a whole lot. You don't think about it all the time."
Rowland's daughter and grandchildren live right next door. Her granddaughter Friday pulled a little red wagon a quarter mile or so from the power plant.
"If we really thought it was a danger - and my husband has thought about us moving a few times - we would go," Rowland said. "But this is home. His parents lived around here even before us.
"People ask me where I live, I tell them, 'Right under the big cloud.'"
Longtime resident Dr. Hal Anderson, a retired pediatrician whose whole life has been spent taking care of people's health, bought his lakefront property in 1977 and watched the plant built less than a half-mile away.
He's still there, looking at the power plant and that vapor plume every day of his life.
For years, Anderson joked with people: "If this place ever blew up, I'd go first and the rest of you would have to suffer for three months."
But that was only a joke - Anderson said he "feels safe" where he lives and always has.
"Certainly, what happened in Japan makes you think about nuclear power and safety more, but nuclear power is clean and efficient," Anderson said. "The Catawba plant has been a good neighbor our whole time here.
"They keep us informed, they are responsible, and have an excellent safety record."
'We don't lose sleep'
Lake Pointe Academy, a private Christian school with about 120 students, sits just west of the Catawba plant, along S.C. 274.
Even with the plant so close by, parents rarely have concerns with the location - other than asking about it initially when enrolling their kids - said Principal Louis Lemmons.
Both Duke and York County have been helpful with the school concerning any safety concerns, he said, although those concerns are almost negligible.
No parents Friday seemed to have any concern about the plant, and each member of the seven-member senior class at the school said the plant's location made no difference to them.
"I live just a couple of miles down the road, too, and it doesn't bother me one bit," said Jonathan Kurtz, 18.
Hundreds of families live near the plant, more across the lake in Tega Cay. The area has boomed with residential growth in the past decade.
Yet both Lesslie Norris and David Coone, Realtors who sell properties along the lake around the plant, say very few people worry about the plant when buying.
Coone and Norris also live close to the plant, too.
"Duke has a terrific record; they are good neighbors," Coone said. "It does come up sometimes when I show properties around the lake, but other than one woman from Florida who just said, 'No - too close to the plant,' it has never been too much of an issue."
Norris sold a home just last week on North Road, which is so close to the plant you can hear the "hum."
One of those neighbors in that Windswept Cove subdivision who can hear that hum is Tina Ficarella. She and her husband did factor in the proximity of the plant when buying their home four years ago because they have two kids and safety is important.
"We even went to the plant and asked for information," Ficarella said. "I saw what happened in Japan, but the worry about earthquakes and tsunamis here is not the same.
"We don't lose sleep over our safety here, but in the last three weeks, what was in the back of our minds is a lot closer to the front. It does make you think about that plant right over there."
Ficarella, a jogger, jogged right over that bridge on Concord Road Friday where anyone can stop and look at the plant and cooling towers. She didn't worry and neither did, Helen Tallent, 83, who has lived near the plant for 30 years.
Tallent drove over that bridge Friday, and said she has absolutely "no concerns over safety at all."
"Duke is a good, trustworthy neighbor," Tallent said. "When people ask where I live, I say, "Right near the nuclear plant with the big cloud over it."
Maybe the closest neighbor of all to the plant is a guy named Steve Smith. The plant could be heard, "humming," as he called it, Friday afternoon from Smith's yard.
That hum has been a part of his life for 11 years.
"The cloud is overhead right there and you hear the hum, but you get used to it," Smith said. "But that is a reminder it is right next-door.
"I didn't need the problems in Japan to be reminded."
Smith is one of those nosy neighbors you want - he watches Duke like a hawk. He attends relicensing hearings, has legitimate concerns about safety considering how close he is.
He has brought up concerns when water runoff brought sediment, and he knows that any serious problems at the plant would be trouble for a lot of people.
Smith would like more testing of lake water to ease anyone's concern over any problems, but he has no beef with living next door to the nuclear plant.
Safety concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington - armed security with machine guns were common near the plant after the attacks - were far more worrisome to Smith than radiation.
The plant has a terrific safety record, Smith said. "I do not even worry there would ever be a nuclear accident, even if the plant is right next-door."
Between his house and the plant, Smith sees foxes, deer, hawks, owls, wild turkey and other wildlife.
Like Anderson, Smith has joked with friends over the years that if something happened at the plant; "I'd be first to go - and I mean number one."
But that is just conversation, laughing it up with people who know he lives in the shadow of that water vapor cloud. Living near the lake makes it all worth it.
"All in all," Smith said, "out here, I've got my little bit of paradise."
Paradise, with uranium next-door.