The Wild Side of Nuclear Facilities

When you think of nuclear power plants, recreation may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But at and around Duke Energy’s nuclear sites you can find numerous places to hike, fish, picnic and bird-watch. In fact, Duke Energy’s nuclear sites have a history of environmental protection, even before the plants began operating.

As you may recall from a previous post, nuclear power plants use water in a variety of ways, including for cooling. Once steam is used to generate electricity, it flows across tubes containing cool lake or river water that condenses the steam for reuse – the steam and lake/river water do not mix. The lake or river water is then cooled and returned to its original source.

The need for cooling water means that nuclear sites are located on bodies of water. With the exception of Brunswick Nuclear Plant located on the Cape Fear River, all of Duke Energy’s nuclear facilities sit on manmade reservoirs specifically created to support power generation. Not only do these lakes help provide electricity, however, but also are enjoyed by the public as scenic places to enjoy the outdoors.

The World of Energy's public fishing pier on Lake Keowee

Families enjoy the sunset at the World of Energy’s public fishing pier on Lake Keowee

McGuire Nuclear Station, for example, offers a public access fishing area on Lake Norman at its EnergyExplorium. Through its “Fish-Friendly Piers” program, Duke Energy worked with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to construct artificial fish habitat at McGuire’s EnergyExplorium boat dock to attract more fish to the area.

The World of Energy at Oconee Nuclear Station also provides a fishing pier on Lake Keowee and encourages families to explore the outdoors through free events. At itsannual Hunting and Fishing Day celebration in September, children take advantage of the plant’s close proximity to Lake Keowee by learning how to fish and kayak, among other activities.

One of many mountain bike trails at Harris Lake County Park
One of many mountain bike trails at Harris Lake County Park

Harris Lake is a popular spot for boating, water-skiing, fishing and even duck hunting in New Hill, N.C. Constructed to provide cooling water to the Harris Nuclear Plant, the lake is accessible by two boat ramps operated by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Duke Energy also leases land to Wake County, which operates Harris Lake County Park. There you’ll find unique features like mountain biking trails, a disc golf course and environmental education programs.

Similarly, residents and visitors to Hartsville, S.C. can take advantage of public boat ramps and a fishing pier on Lake Robinson, adjacent to the Robinson Nuclear Plant. Those wishing to enjoy the lake’s rustic scenery for more than one day can stay overnight in one of the campgrounds along its shores.

Perhaps less well known, Catawba Nuclear Station maintains Catawba park, which sits on the banks of Lake Wylie. While the park is typically open only to employees for boating, fishing and picnicking, it will be accessible to the public for a community barbeque this October.

The bodies of water near Duke Energy’s nuclear sites also attract a variety of wildlife. Birds such as osprey are often sighted near McGuire, Catawba and Oconee nuclear stations and beachgoers in Southport, N.C. – near the Brunswick Nuclear Plant – can spot migrating sea turtles during the summer months.

Butterfly garden and wildlife habitat at the EnergyExplorium

The water isn’t the only way to enjoy nature near Duke Energy’s nuclear sites, however. Nature trails at the World of Energy and EnergyExplorium offer opportunities to view native plants and wildlife. If you’re simply looking for a place to have lunch, both education centers also have picnic shelters. On your visit to the EnegyExplorium, you can even try your hand at geocaching.


Even for those who don’t typically spend their fee time outside, outdoor movies at McGuire and Oconee nuclear stations are a great way to relax outside with friends and family.

However you like to enjoy the outdoors and as you plan your next excursion, consider the recreational options provided by your nearby nuclear site. You might be surprised at what you find.


STEM: A Critical Focus for Duke Energy

20150807_105221What do sheep eyeballs, robots, tornadoes, and balloon cars all have in common?

Nearly 100 campers recently visited the EnergyExplorium at McGuire Nuclear Station, to take part in “Exploring Science,” a program designed to boost student’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The one day camp immersed students ages 8-12 in hands-on, team-based learning activities focusing on robotics, energy, chemistry, physics, biology and more.

While the science day camp was the first of its kind held at the EnergyExplorium, STEM has been a critical focus for Duke Energy. By fostering a growing interest in the STEM fields for students, programs like “Exploring Science,” engage students in core fundamentals and helps build a strong foundation for future leaders.

WorkforceWhile the demand for energy is increasing, the amount of students entering the STEM fields is declining. And with 60 percent of Duke Energy employees eligible to retire during the next decade, the company is partnering with communities and organizations to help peak interest in and  transition younger generations into the workforce.

Just over half of Duke Energy’s current workforce is made up of “baby boomers” and “traditionalists,” who are nearing retirement in the next decade or so – down from more than 60 percent in 2011. In 2013, “Generation X” exceeded one-third and “millennials” exceeded 10 percent of the workforce for the first time.

The company’s workforce planning efforts are paying off, as they recruit new hires and work to ensure a full pipeline of employees with the right qualifications and skills.

Duke Energy partnered with the STEM Career Path Project, to bring “Exploring Science” day camp to the EnergyExplorium at McGuire Nuclear Station. The STEM Career Path Project is a non-profit organization that promotes science, technology, engineering and math education by inspiring young minds through hands-on, interactive activities and workshops.

Vets Provide Backbone to Nuclear Power Industry

Duke Energy has a long history of employing veterans of the United States Armed Forces across its enterprise. It is Duke’s longstanding belief that the knowledge and skills gained in the military translate well to a rewarding career in the electric utility industry. Veterans know how to evaluate risk, work as part of a team, overcome obstacles and solve problems. Duke Energy values these qualities in its workforce. Nowhere is this more true than in Duke’s nuclear fleet, where U.S. military personnel and veterans fill engineering, technician, operator and security positions.

“U.S. military veterans are, and will continue to be, vital to our nuclear workforce,” said Duke Energy’s Chief Nuclear Officer Bill Pitesa. “Across our fleet, former sailors, airmen, soldiers, marines and guardsmen and women are integral to the safe and efficient operation of our nuclear facilities.”

Nuclear Navy

The nuclear industry is especially interested in graduates of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion program since the fundamentals and components education graduates receive is directly applicable to careers at nuclear power plants. With the shortage of skilled workers in nuclear energy, and the impending retirement of a significant number of workers, this pipeline is of vital importance to the industry.

aschoolnewStudents at the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Training Command “A” School receive fundamental rate training for future nuclear Machinist’s Mates, Electrician’s mates and Electronic Technicians. Many of the skills learned here are useful as sailors transition out of the Navy into civilian employment.

So important, in fact, that the civilian nuclear industry and U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion program signed an agreement in 2012 establishing the first systematic program that allows personnel separating from the Navy to seamlessly transition to civilian employment. The agreement of understanding is the first, formal partnership between the Navy and the nuclear energy industry, including Duke Energy, designed to put veterans to work in the growing domestic nuclear energy field.

“The nuclear industry expects to hire about 25,000 more workers over the next few years, and this agreement allows us to bring in experienced, highly skilled people who deserve rewarding civilian careers after selfless service to their country,” said Tony Pietrangelo, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer in a news release.

Nuclear Security

The nuclear energy industry is one of the few industries with a security program that is regulated by the federal government. Security officers must be highly trained and well-armed to meet the standards set forth for nuclear power plants. Military veterans meet these criteria and therefore are highly sought after to man the security teams in nuclear.

“We look for a certain skill set and aptitude when we hire nuclear security officers,” said Harris Nuclear Plant’s Director of Nuclear Security Linwood Faulk. “What I have found is that veterans bring those skills to the table and it flattens the learning curve when we hire new people.”

The Future

Due to ongoing expansion, the nuclear energy industry is a job-creating engine. The industry is hiring thousands of well-paid workers to build new reactors—and up to 700 permanent staff to operate each site for the long term. Due to expected retirements the industry plans to hire as many as 20,000 highly skilled workers by 2018 to operate, maintain and secure existing reactors. Duke Energy is committed to filling those vacancies with highly-trained veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Over the coming months, look for profiles in this space on the military veterans who help make Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet one of the best in country.