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.
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)?
CCRs are created by burning coal to generate electricity and the use of air emission-control technologies. CCRs include:
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:
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.
Progress Energy’s systems for capturing and storing CCRs are regulated, permitted and designed to protect the environment. They fall into two categories:
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.
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.