Nuclear stations generate electricity by heating water to create steam to turn turbines, which turn a generator. As part of electricity production, these stations need a way to cool this steam back to water for reuse. Because of water needs, nuclear plants are typically located near lakes, rivers or the ocean. However, because these water bodies are used for other reasons, such as drinking water supply and recreation, Duke Energy established environmental programs decades ago (even before nuclear plants were constructed), to ensure Duke Energy is protective of human health and the environment.
Duke Energy’s Environmental Sciences team helps ensure reliable energy is delivered to its customers while also protecting human health and the environment. Consider McGuire Nuclear Station, located on Lake Norman. Lake Norman, North Carolina’s largest man-made lake with more than 500 miles of shoreline, is full of lush plant and aquatic life.
Here are three ways that Environmental Sciences offers their expertise to ensure McGuire Nuclear Station, and other Duke Energy facilities, can continue keeping the lights on while ensuring a healthy environment remains a daily commitment as part of our operations.
1. They conduct aquatic studies.
In support of McGuire’s operations and environmental commitment, Environmental Sciences teammates perform monthly, seasonal and annual studies of aquatic communities on Lake Norman, the overall Catawba River and even smaller bodies of water located on plant property. These studies assess water quality, fisheries, plankton, macroinvertebrates, mussels and aquatic and terrestrial habitat to make sure all plant activities comply with the federal Clean Water Act and state regulations. In addition, aquatic plant experts routinely survey the lake shoreline for invasive aquatic plants which have the potential to impact McGuire’s cooling water intake and overall lake health. Water chemistry and invasive populations of aquatic organisms are also monitored, as needed, to help engineers ensure our ability to supply reliable power to our customers.
2. Get this! The teams aren’t just monitoring the waters of Lake Norman.
They also keep eyes on the land and sky around McGuire Nuclear Station. Natural resource specialists support Duke Energy’s Avian Protection Plan, including compliance with the federal Migratory Bird Act, by providing expert guidance and assistance in bird injury prevention (e.g., nest relocation or diversion structure installation) and relocation and reporting of injured birds. Additionally, environmental instrumentation specialists maintain and calibrate meteorological, water temperature, and other specialized continuous monitoring equipment to ensure the collection of high-quality data that further helps McGuire safeguard the environment.
3. It’s a team effort.
Delivering clean, reliable energy to our customers while protecting the environment is a daily commitment for the nearly 20 members of the Environmental Sciences teams that support McGuire Nuclear Station alone. The Environmental Sciences team has a close relationship with the nuclear plant’s environmental field support personnel and engineers who oversee environmental regulatory compliance and monitoring. As you can see by the numbers, it takes a village!
All U.S. nuclear energy facilities have extensive environmental programs, but it takes committed, experienced professionals like these to carry out the work. We’re proud of the role this team plays in protecting the environment and all its inhabitants.