Nuclear Power Impacts on Birds

Nuclear power by

Nuclear power by




Nuclear energy is produced when atoms of a fissile material, such as uranium-235, are split in a controlled chain reaction. The heat that is generated is used to boil water, produce steam, and drive a steam turbine. Physicist Bernard Cohen calculated the useful lifetime of nuclear power in the billions of years - longer than the life of the sun itself (which ultimately powers other renewables), and subsequently stated that this should qualify nuclear power as a renewable resource.

Of all the known energy sources, nuclear energy has perhaps the lowest initial impact on the environment, especially in relation to kilowatts produced, because nuclear plants do not emit harmful greenhouse gases, require a relatively small footprint, and effectively mitigate other impacts. The downside is that it produces waste that is radioactive for 10,000+ years, the storage of which presents some very difficult and dangerous long term challenges.

Impacts on birds

Because the areas around nuclear power plants and their cooling ponds are so clean, some plants have developed them as wetlands that provide nesting areas for waterfowl and other birds. In fact, such endangered birds as Osprey, Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers, have found a home at nuclear power plants. Some nuclear plants also have programs to protect species that are not endangered, such as Eastern Bluebirds, Wood Ducks, American Kestrels, Wild Turkeys, and Ring-necked Pheasant.

Clearly, there are many huge potential negative impacts to birds and other wildlife from radiation poisoning in the case of nuclear catastrophe, but these are outside the scope of this document.