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Bald Eagle Pair 'Friends' a Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Energy Insight

July 2010—A pair of bald eagles this spring chose the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant in Pennsylvania as their nesting place, joining pairs of peregrine falcons and ospreys that already had taken up residence.

“This is very unusual. I am not aware of any other location in the state where these three species are cohabitating so close to each other,” said Jason DeCoskey, chief of the special permit enforcement division of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Falcon at TMI Insight July 2010“TMI’s ability to attract and support all three species is a tribute to the abundance of unique food sources and the overall environmental friendliness that exists there.”

Not only does Three Mile Island have all three species, but it has one of the most unique nesting sites for peregrine falcons in the state: the side of the TMI reactor building. Once again this spring, the falcons raised two new fledglings. DeCoskey was able to band one of the fledglings in June. The peregrine falcon is widely known as the world’s fastest flying bird.

The bald eagles at TMI are among the latest examples of threatened and endangered species that have chosen nuclear plant sites for their homes. For example, the gentle manatee finds a safe haven in the warm, protected waters near nuclear power plants on the Florida coast. Depending on their habitat preference, such disparate species as alligators, swallowtail butterflies, wild turkeys and Puritan tiger beetles found safe environments at nuclear plant sites around the country as places where they can thrive.

Electric power companies take significant measures to attract and nurture wild species in the areas near their power plants. Because such areas are so clean, some are developed as environmentally rich wetlands, providing better nesting areas for waterfowl and other birds, new habitats for fish and sanctuaries for other wildlife, flowers and grasses.

“We collaborate with the folks at Three Mile Island to protect the well being of the birds,” said DeCoskey. “They do a wonderful job supporting and enriching the site to support the birds.”

“All of us at Three Mile Island are excited to share the island with the eagles, falcons and osprey,” said Bill Noll, TMI site vice president.

“Our employees have formed an environmental committee that has conducted island cleanup days, erected wood duck boxes and performed other activities to enhance the environment.”

While the falcons nest on the reactor building, the ospreys have built a nest high atop TMI’s meteorological tower. The tower offers them a great view of the Susquehanna River, where they fish. The eagles have nested in a tree on the south end of TMI. Eagles are fishers and scavengers.

In addition to the birds mentioned above, TMI is home to deer, fox, blue heron, geese, wood ducks and many more species.

—Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.