Harris Nuclear knows a healthy forest takes work

This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting the natural environments around Duke Energy’s nuclear facilities and what Duke Energy is doing to enhance those areas.

Forestry 1
A Duke Energy employee works to beautify the area around Harris Nuclear. You can see the site’s cooling tower in the background.

Located on more than 30,000 acres of land, 20,000 of which are available for public use, the Harris Nuclear Plant is surrounded by a lush forest. While there is an enormous amount of natural beauty in the region, the thick woods around Harris are no coincidence.

Each year between January and mid-March, it’s common to see tree planters renewing Duke Energy’s forest around the Harris Nuclear Plant. This year the site will reforest roughly 475 acres around the Harris site or about two percent of the land Duke Energy owns.

Trees are planted on an 8- by 10-foot grid resulting in roughly 545 trees per acre. This year alone, forestry crews planted more than 250,000 seedlings on lands adjoining the Harris Plant. This is more trees than were harvested.

The planted seedlings will grow and fully occupy the site in 12 to 15 years. The young trees will begin to compete against each other for soil, water and nutrients. When trees compete for resources, they become stressed and are candidates for natural mortality and pine beetle infestations.

Harris trees
More than 250,000 trees were planted around Harris Nuclear in 2014.

Trees showing poor growth are sold and harvested, allowing the residual trees to continue growing into higher-valued products. Duke Energy participates with the North Carolina State University Cooperative Tree Improvement Program (NCTIP) through American Forest Management (AFM). Extensive research is conducted to breed desirable tree and wood characteristics. Once the best seed is selected, the seedlings are grown in a tree nursery specifically for Duke Energy. By selecting those tree families that have been shown to grow faster, straighter and disease-resistant, the health of the forest is improved overall.

A healthy forest does not happen by accident, it requires hard work and a dedication to beautifying the land and improving natural environments. This is just one example of the good environmental stewardship that is being shown in the Duke Energy nuclear fleet.