The Southern Company system operates rigorous programs with the goal to safely and effectively manage coal ash and other waste resulting from power generation.
The system is committed to continuous improvement through beneficial uses of coal combustion residuals and assessment programs for evaluating the safety and stability of the system’s surface impoundments and enhance programs as necessary to maintain a high level of care.
Across the Southern Company system, we are aggressively diverting ash and wastewater from ash ponds as part of our rigorous Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) compliance program. This program complies with applicable laws and regulations to safely, effectively and responsibly manage CCR. Our state-regulated electric companies have established groundwater monitoring systems around CCR units that meet the EPA’s monitoring requirements. We are closing inactive ponds, have exceeded our self-imposed schedule to stop sending ash to all unlined ponds by the end of 2019 and, thereafter, plan to close every remaining ash pond in our system.
What’s more, the Southern Company system currently avoids CCR disposal by beneficially using 93 percent of produced ash and gypsum. All Southern Company electric operating companies are complying with public data posting requirements and publish this information on their respective websites.
The Southern Company system has reduced hazardous waste generation in routine electric utility work by employing simple measures like replacing hazardous materials with safer options such as non-chlorinated cleaners and water-based paints.
In collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute, Georgia Power and Southern Company have opened a new research center for the beneficial use of coal combustion products (CCPs) such as coal ash.
This facility is located at Georgia Power's Plant Bowen and will allow for testing of pilot project technologies to increase the beneficial use of coal ash. Activities that will take place at this center include reviewing ways to optimize coal ash characteristics to better fit commercial applications, speeding and facilitating development of emerging beneficial-use technologies, understanding performance of re-use products and developing realistic cost profiles.
By promoting advancements in beneficial use processes and technologies, this center will ultimately provide economic and environmental benefits by bringing cost-effective technologies to market and increasing the potential value of ash and other CCPs stored in landfills or ash ponds. This will result in long-term economic and environmental benefits to customers through the increased beneficial use of CCPs.
Research and larger-scale engineering tests and demonstrations are necessary to further develop advanced processes and beneficial use technologies that could increase the opportunities for CCP use. Since current CCPs are primarily supplied by operating power plants, this center aims to develop new technologies or processes that expand beneficial use applications and potential markets.
Nuclear power plants produce two levels of radioactive waste: high-level and low-level.
High-level waste is used fuel. Used fuel is handled by remote control and safely stored inside the most highly secured area of the plant in steel-lined, concrete pools filled with water or on the plant property in steel-lined, concrete containers. Used fuel accumulates at a much lower volume than many people imagine. A thimble-sized nuclear fuel pellet produces the equivalent energy of 1 ton of coal. An average nuclear plant unit retires about 20 tons of fuel each year that, in volume, could fit in a small room.
Low-level waste includes such things as protective clothing, tools and equipment that may contain small amounts of radioactive material. Low-level waste can be shipped to a licensed disposal facility or stored at the plant.
Substations and other facilities have electrical equipment that contains oil for its insulation properties. These facilities have procedures in place to prevent oil spills.