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.

Lake KeoweeFamilies 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

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.



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