The Birds. At Duke Energy’s Nuclear Plants


Birds migrate for the winter. But where do they migrate? Would you believe more than 150 species migrate to North and South Carolina? And many of those nest near or on the lakes that Duke Energy’s nuclear plants sit on.

At McGuire Nuclear Station on Lake Norman, the rufus hummingbird, red-necked grebe, western grebe, and black tern have been spotted.


Terns have been spotted near McGuire Nuclear Station on Lake Norman.

At Catawba Nuclear Station on Lake Wylie, brown pelicans have been spotted.

“Birds species from bald eagles to ruby-throated hummingbirds nest along the shores of the Catawba River Corridor and surrounding areas,” said Duke Energy Environmental Scientist Mark Auten. “There are a number of birds that frequent the Carolinas during the winter season that are not traditionally found in this area year-round.”

For example, the common loon spends the winter months fishing on many of the Catawba lakes,  as do several species of gulls. And many wading birds such as herons and egrets can be seen in the shallows around all the lakes and nesting on many islands and along the shore lines — often in pine trees.

An osprey cam is being installed at Catawba Nuclear Station for the public to watch the osprey nesting.

An osprey cam is being installed at Catawba Nuclear Station for the public to watch the osprey nesting.

“Duke Energy has an active and comprehensive Avian Protection Plan,” Auten said. “Take the osprey for example. Prior to 1984, no ospreys were known to be nesting on Lake Norman. Now there are 65 active Osprey nests on or surrounding the immediate area of Lake Norman.”

Between 1984 and 1987, in cooperation with the Carolinas Raptor Center, North Carolina State and Federal Agencies, Duke Energy helped relocate 12 young ospreys from Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge and raise them on hacking platforms so that these birds would leave an imprint on the area and return after migration.

Osprey at Catawba Nuclear Station.

Osprey at Catawba Nuclear Station.

And at Catawba Nuclear Station, there is an active osprey nest on one of the communication towers on site. Duke Energy is in the process of putting a live-feed camera near the nest so the public can watch the Osprey online.

At Marshall Steam Station, Duke Energy and the local Wildlife Federation groups have put up nesting platforms for the great blue herons.

Not only does Duke Energy have an Avian Protection Plan, the company also has a Migratory Bird Hotline.

“Duke Energy’s Midwest, Carolinas West, Carolinas East and Florida have company hotlines to report all bird incidents that occur in or on the Duke Energy system ,” Auten said. “Duke Energy annually reports all avian incidents and nest removal and relocations to the local state and federal agencies and maintains avian permits for these incidents.”


A cormorant spotted on Lake Wylie near Catawba Nuclear Station.

Teacher Scholars Discuss the Nature of Energy

While teachers enjoy helping students learn about new subjects, teachers also enjoy learning and expanding their knowledge on subjects as well. In partnership with the Charlotte Teacher’s Institute(CTI) speaker series, the EnergyExplorium at McGuire Nuclear Station hosted an event for teachers to share what they learned from research projects related to energy. More than 70 people attended the event which provided an opportunity for  teachers to present their work focused on the theme: Teachers as Scholars: The Nature of Energy. Representing research conducted for elementary, middle, high school and university students, teacher also displayed their work and provided hands-on demonstrations to complement their research.

Discussion Topics and Presenters:

  • The Nature of Energy: How we use and Store it to Power Our Everyday Lives – Susan Trammell, Professor of Physics – UNC Charlotte
  • Energy in Our World – Cindy Woolery, Science Teacher – Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School
  • Crusing Continents and an Awesome Asthenosphere: Fueling Earth’s Ever Changing Surface – Julie Ruziska Tiddy – Science Teacher – Carmel Middle School
  • Mama did not Take the Kodachrome Away But Charge-Coupled Devices Did – Deb Semmler, Physics Teacher – East Mecklenburg High School

“Duke Energy is a strong supporter of CTI and we were honored to host the event at the EnergyExplorium,” says Christine Pulley, a member of the communications team at the EnergyExplorium. “As an energy education center we’re always looking for ways to educate the public on nuclear and other energy-related issues. We believe that when educators have an opportunity to expand their knowledge, it benefits their students and the overall classroom experience.”

The Charlotte Teachers Institute (CTI) is an initiative to strengthen teaching and learning in public schools. Led by classroom teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (Charlotte, N.C.) and professors at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College, CTI is founded on four pillars of strong professional development:  content knowledge, creativity, leadership and collaboration. In addition to hosting seminars for teachers, CTI hosts programs and special events to engage and educate teachers and the community at large.

Pen Pal Program Empowers Young Minds

Publication12,200. We’re not referring to the number of megawatts one of our nuclear plants produces. Instead, it’s the total number of students and employees who have participated in the pen pal programs at Catawba and McGuire nuclear stations since its start more than 10 years ago.

Initially, the pen pal program was created to help elementary school students improve their writing and reading skills by providing a fun and interactive way to practice and improve those skills. But, as it grew, the program has come to mean much more. Through letters and conversations with pen pals, employees spark students’ interest in careers they may have never known about. In return, the pen pal program has enabled employees to serve in mentorship roles, possibly empowering young students to pursue a career in the nuclear industry.

Each year, Catawba and McGuire nuclear station employees are paired with students who engage in spirited exchanges of ideas and updates throughout the school year. This year, nearly 90 eager employee pen pals, representing a variety of departments, are participating in the pen pal project, working with children via handwritten letters and connecting them in lasting ways.

“Not only does the project allow students to improve their penmanship, but writing about their world and reading about someone else’s helps build vocabulary and reading skills. It also develops critical thinking and problem solving skills and helps children feel connected by sharing their stories and reading about another person’s life experiences” explains Lisa Leonard, a long-time pen pal at McGuire.

After several months of sharing letters, pen pals meet face-to-face to share conversations and experiences over a picnic lunch and games.