Brunswick Nuclear Plant Protects Natural Resources

BNP Turtles Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet is committed to environmental stewardship. Responsibly managing and protecting natural resources is essential to a cleaner environment, the quality of life in the communities served and the company’s long-term business success. A good example of that stewardship can be found at the Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, N.C.

Because the plant is near the Atlantic Ocean, migrating sea turtles occasionally travel onto plant property when unusual tides and storms push them through barriers in an on-site canal. When a sea turtle is found on plant property, the site’s 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 that allows the company and the state to monitor its migration habits. After being tagged, the turtles are released back into the ocean.

Because the plant draws water from the lower Cape Fear River to aid in the cooling of plant systems, several intake modifications were installed to protect fish, shrimp, and crabs found in the area. A large fish diversion structure was constructed in 1982 at the mouth of the intake canal to ensure debris and wildlife are kept out of the intake canal. Installation of the diversion structure resulted in a reduction of 85 to 95 percent in the numbers of marine life affected by plant operations. An additional measure of its effectiveness is there were no sea turtle strandings during this year’s turtle nesting season.

Fish-friendly intake screens and a fish return system were installed at the station intake structure in 1983. The fish return system prevents fish, shrimp and crabs from being drawn into the plant’s cooling system along with the cooling water. The return system is further enhance by the installation of 1-mm fine-mesh screens to ensure larval fish and shellfish are also saved. Substantial numbers of fish, shrimp and crabs are returned alive to their nursery habitats by the continuous operation of the fish-friendly intake screens and return system. In addition, station cooling water flow is also reduced from December through March to further minimize effects on the large numbers of larval fish found in the lower Cape Fear River during those months.

Significant biological studies of the lower Cape Fear River were conducted by the company in partnership with academic institutions and state and federal resource agencies from the 1970s to the 1990s to enhance understanding of the environment around the Brunswick Nuclear Plant to ensure plant operations had minimal effects on the environment.  Ongoing studies by plant personnel and company biologists continue to demonstrate minimal effects of plant operations on the environment.

Nuclear Industry Partners with the Navy

Over the next five years, the nuclear industry will need to fill approximately 20,000 jobs. One way the nuclear industry is meeting this need is through a new partnership with the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. This program is the first formal partnership between the Navy and the nuclear industry to transition experienced, highly-skilled naval personnel leaving the service to civilian jobs in the nuclear energy industry.

This agreement allows nuclear-trained naval personnel who have decided to leave the service following the end of their commitment to have their contact information provided to industry recruiters with nearly 30 companies. The agreement also expands the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program, an industry-led partnership with 38 community colleges to educate the next generation of the nuclear workforce.

Further Reading:

Nuclear First Responders: There When Needed


When one hears the words “first responder,” the first thing that comes to mind are emergency medical technicians, fire fighters and police officers.

These are also the first responders at a nuclear facility — the medical emergency response team, the fire brigade and security.

Fire Brigade

Members of Duke Energy's nuclear plant's fire brigades regularly practice their skills with live fire training sessions at Gaston College in North Carolina.

Members of Duke Energy’s fire brigades regularly practice their skills with live fire training sessions at Gaston College in North Carolina.

Every commercial nuclear facility in the United States has its own fire department.

The purpose of the plant’s fire brigade is singular, to stop the spread of fire, in the event of a fire, at the plant.

All members of the fire brigade have been through training to serve on the plant’s fire brigade, and they regularly have drills and exercises to practice. Some members of the fire brigade have other nuclear jobs, such as maintenance technician or nuclear operator. But when the time comes, they change out of their regular work attire into their firefighting gear.


Nuclear security officers have extensive training and often have experience in the military or police work.

Nuclear security officers have extensive training and often have experience in the military or police work.

Another nuclear first responder is security. Each Duke Energy nuclear facility is guarded 24 hours a day by an armed, well-trained security force.

Security officers maintain their high level of readiness through classroom courses, drills and practical exercises. They regularly drill, just like the fire brigade , to hone their skills and prepare for any situation.

Security officers usually come from a military or law enforcement background and are trained to protect the plant and employees. The NRC tests the readiness of nuclear security teams through a series of exercises, which simulate a planned attack on the plant. Security officers must prove through these exercises that they can respond to any attack on the plant quickly and effectively.

A subset of security is the Medical Emergency Response Team, or MERT. These individuals are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to any medical emergency on site.

All of these individuals train, prepare and refine their skills if they are ever called upon.

The number one priority at every nuclear facility is the safety of the public and employees. And the individuals in these jobs are the first to respond during an emergency.