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Waste Management

2012 Corporate Responsibility Report

Recycling our waste and helping our customers do the same 

As part of our environmental stewardship, we seek to maximize the recycling of our wastes. Our current facility recycling program for nonhazardous waste consists of office paper, cardboard, pallets, glass, aluminum and plastic. We are increasing our recycling efforts in downtown Raleigh by working with our waste provider to include recycling of newspapers, catalogs, magazines, aluminum foil, metal food cans and paperboard products. We also use a vendor to manage our electronic waste, such as computer- and telecom-related equipment and circuit boards.

We also offer our customers an energy-efficiency program aimed at reducing energy use, carbon emissions and waste in landfills. Our Appliance Recycling Program offers $50 to Carolinas customers who allow us to pick up their old, working refrigerator or freezer and recycle them. We have recycled 13,600 refrigerators and freezers since the program launched in 2010. This has helped reduce associated carbon dioxide emissions by 4,288 tons.

Coal-combustion residuals

In 2011, coal-fired power plants supplied about 37 percent of the electricity used by Progress Energy’s customers in the Carolinas and about 31 percent of the energy used by customers in Florida. In the process of generating electricity, coal-fired plants also generate coal-combustion residuals. As part of our ongoing commitment to the environment, Progress Energy seeks to handle these products in the safest, most responsible manner, either through storage, disposal or beneficial use.What are coal-combustion residuals (CCRs)?

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  • What are coal-combustion residuals (CCRs)?

    CCRs are created by burning coal to generate electricity and the use of air emission-control technologies. CCRs include:

    • Coal ash: We produce approximately 2 million tons of coal ash each year. The electrostatic precipitators at our plants capture about 99.8 percent of the fly ash, a fine, powdery material released from the boiler in the exhaust gas. Cenospheres are a form of fly ash that are tiny, inert, hollow balls of sand‐like material. Cenospheres can be so lightweight that the particles float on water and are typically collected by skimming the surface of an ash pond.  Bottom ash has larger, heavier particles that fall into and are collected from the bottom of the boiler.
    • Synthetic gypsum: Wet flue-gas desulfurization units, or scrubbers, remove SO2 by passing the flue gas through a tower where a mixture of limestone and water is sprayed. When the SO2 in the flue gas reacts with the limestone, synthetic gypsum is produced.
  • Beneficial use of CCRs

    Progress Energy’s CCRs are beneficially used in a number of products, including Portland cement, concrete, structural fill and wallboard. Using CCRs in these products is beneficial to the environment and industry:

    • Reduced emissions. Using coal ash to make concrete replaces the need for other emission-causing resources. For example, every ton of ash used in place of Portland cement eliminates approximately one ton of CO2 emissions and 55 gallons of oil that would have been produced/consumed in making alternative ingredients.  Using ash this way prevents more than 13 million tons of CO2 emissions annually in the United States, the equivalent of taking 2.1 million cars off the road, according to the EPA.
    • High-performance products. Building products made with CCRs are even more durable and cost-effective than products made with natural materials. Synthetic gypsum is used to manufacture much of the wallboard in the United States. Fly ash is a vital component in high-strength concrete used in skyscrapers, major highways and bridges. For example, the Raleigh (N.C.) Convention Center was built with concrete that used coal ash from a Progress Energy coal plant.

    Overall, the quantity of beneficial reuse of all CCRs for Progress Energy’s coal fleet in 2011 was 67 percent of the ash produced that year. We are aggressively pursuing additional beneficial reuse opportunities for all of our coal plants.

  • Storage of CCRs

    Progress Energy’s systems for capturing and storing CCRs are regulated, permitted and designed to protect the environment. They fall into two categories:

    • Dry: CCRs can be stored or disposed of in dry, above-ground landfills. These areas are typically built in compartments. As these are completed, they are to be covered with soil and grass.
    • Wet: CCRs can be stored in ponds, which are part of our plants’ wastewater treatment facilities. Progress Energy performs thorough and frequent inspections of these facilities, including tests for water quality, ground water monitoring, structural integrity and environmental impact.

    Progress Energy Carolinas has nine active wet-treatment and storage facilities and one active dry-storage facility. Progress Energy Florida has one active dry CCR storage facility and one active water-treatment and storage facility.

    Dams associated with CCR treatment or storage facilities are regularly inspected by engineers, trained plant personnel and regulatory agency representatives. These inspections verify that the dams are safe for continued use.  If improvements, modifications or repairs are needed, we obtain all the necessary approvals from state agencies.

  • Future of CCRs

    Progress Energy continuously seeks the best ways to store, dispose or use CCRs. The EPA is considering modification of rules regulating CCR disposal. Those changes may significantly change the options and cost of disposal, storage or marketing of CCRs.

    In mid-2010, EPA proposed and asked for comment on two options for federal regulation of disposal (beneficial uses would be exempt) of CCRs: (1) as a hazardous waste with federal permits and EPA enforcement, or (2) as a nonhazardous solid waste controlled by federal and state regulations and enforcement through the courts. The hazardous waste option is inappropriate and would be much more costly for compliance, as well as creating a stigma that would impair CCR marketing efforts. The nonhazardous waste option is more practical and endorsed by industry and most state environmental agencies. Either option would add to the cost of CCR disposal and likely lead to the end of using ash ponds. EPA is expected to publish a final rule in late 2012, but there is no formal schedule commitment.


Used nuclear fuel

After uranium pellets have been used in our nuclear plants to make electricity, they are still radioactive and must be safely stored and secured. We have extensive safety and security measures in place. We use both wet storage (fuel is submerged under 23 feet of water in fortified concrete pools lined with steel) and dry storage (fuel is secured in specially designed concrete canisters) for on-site storage of used fuel. The two methods are equally safe. To date, the U.S. Department of Energy has not fulfilled its commitment to open and operate a permanent used-fuel repository. Until a federal repository is operational for long-term storage, the fuel will be stored safely and securely at our facilities.

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