Why nuclear plants are a great place for wildlife

Why nuclear plants are a great place for wildlife

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet generates clean energy and operate in harmony with the environment

Driving onto a Duke Energy nuclear site can be an awe-inspiring experience: You’re entering one of the most secure and heavily-protected facilities in the world, a place that most people will not have the opportunity to visit. This place is part of a fleet of power plants with the capacity to power more than seven million homes with some of the most highly skilled and trained professionals on duty around-the-clock as safely-controlled nuclear reactions take place.

And some days, you have to stop and patiently wait while a flock of wild turkeys crosses the road.

For decades, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet in North Carolina and South Carolina has been a dedicated environmental steward. Our six nuclear power plants generate clean electricity, emitting no greenhouse gases or air pollutants, and the plants themselves are designed to operate in harmony with the environment.

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Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, N.C. 

The structures create a small ecological footprint with little impact on their surroundings. The land surrounding a plant provides a safe, ideal habitat for diverse and wide-ranging species of plants and animals to thrive. On any given day, you are likely to glimpse some form of wildlife – from woodland inhabitants such as deer and foxes, to bald eagles and sea turtles.  

While entrance to a plant’s properties is restricted, vast acreage of land is preserved and open for public use. This open space allows the land to be a destination for camping, hiking, fishing, boating, water sports and mountain biking, among other outdoor activities.Duke Energy takes pride in protecting the health and safety of the public and the environment.

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A deer at Harris Nuclear Plant south of Raleigh, N.C.

The sites are committed to being good neighbors. Numerous wildlife protection plans ensure all lives that are touched are valued and protected. In addition, Duke Energy offers a number of environmental education programs for students of all ages, and employees participate in hours of environmental volunteer projects and other initiatives throughout the year.

With the exception of Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, N.C., all of Duke Energy’s nuclear facilities sit on manmade lakes created to support power generation.  They are home to a variety of wildlife, and also attract a number of birds that travel to the Carolinas for the winter months. More than 150 species migrate to North and South Carolina, and many nest near or on the lakes. Standing on the lakeshore, you can spy any number of feathered fliers overhead – from hummingbirds to bald eagles – as well as others wading or swimming across the lake’s surface.

Duke Energy has a comprehensive Avian Protection Plan, and also operates a Migratory Bird Hotline people can call if they have questions or if they encounter an injured bird.

And of course, the lakes are every fisherman’s dream. Duke Energy biologists and environmental scientists work in conjunction with government environmental agencies to monitor and ensure natural habitats remain safe and the lakes continue to support healthy fish populations.

Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, N.C., sits on the shore of the 4,100-acre Harris Lake, one of the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in North Carolina. Duke Energy biologists say the fish population is a result of a “perfect balance of nutrients and aquatic vegetation.” The lake is accessible by two boat ramps operated by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, and is accessible from Harris Lake County Park. Duke Energy leases the park property to Wake County, which oversees operations. The park includes a community fishing pier.

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North of Charlotte, McGuire Nuclear Station offers a public access fishing area on Lake Norman, the largest man-made body of fresh water in North Carolina. Duke Energy partnered with the state to establish Lake Norman State Park, and built bank fishing areas and public boating access areas along the shoreline. Through its “Fish-Friendly Piers” program, Duke Energy worked with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to construct artificial fish habitat at McGuire’s boat dock to attract more fish, such as largemouth bass, striped bass and hybrid bass. Other popular sportfish can be found southwest of Charlotte in Lake Wylie, where Catawba Nuclear Station is located.

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The fishing pier on Lake Keowee in South Carolina.

Oconee Nuclear Station provides a fishing pier on the 18,500-acre Lake Keowee in South Carolina.

The lake is home to three types of bass – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted – as well as other warm-water gamefish such as trout, crappie, bluegill, yellow perch and catfish.

Residents and visitors to Hartsville, S.C., frequently take advantage of public boat ramps and a fishing pier on Lake Robinson, adjacent to Robinson Nuclear Plant. Those wishing to enjoy the lake’s rustic terrain for more than one day can stay overnight in one of the campgrounds along the shores of the 2,250-acre lake. Bass, bream and catfish are among the species of fish pursued by sport fishermen.

While Brunswick Nuclear Plant is not situated on a lake, it is located on the Cape Fear River, also near a rather large body of water – the Atlantic Ocean. This location provides the opportunity to encounter unique wildlife that will not be found at any other plant in the fleet, such as saltwater fish, crabs, shrimp and sea turtles.

Migrating sea turtles and other marine life occasionally find themselves on plant property when unusual tides and storms push them through protective barriers in an on-site canal. The station has invested millions to keep sea life safe, and has an active turtle protection and monitoring program. When a sea turtle is found, environmental specialists capture it and give it a thorough checkup.

Depending on the turtle's condition, plant scientists may partner with the state to provide additional care or rehabilitation. If the turtle is healthy, it’s tagged with a tracking device to monitor its migration habits. After being tagged, the turtles are released back into the ocean.

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet is proud of the role it plays in serving as caretaker to the environment and all its inhabitants – whether in the sky, woods or water; from the mountains to the coast, from the high country to the low country.

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An osprey nest at Catawba Nuclear Station in South Carolina.
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A butterfly near the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina.

 

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