Solid Waste

Solid Waste

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.

 

Coal combustion

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 62 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.

Nuclear

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.

  • Alabama Power and Georgia Power have contracts with the Department of Energy (DOE) for the permanent disposal of used fuel. The DOE failed to begin disposing of used fuel in 1998 as required by the contracts. Until the contract is fulfilled, used fuel continues to be stored safely on-site, as prescribed in operating licenses.
  • Southern Company, through its subsidiaries, operates three nuclear power plants, Vogtle, Farley and Hatch. At plants Vogtle, Hatch and Farley, on-site dry storage facilities are being used to house spent fuel once it reaches a lower level of radioactivity and can be expanded to accommodate used fuel through the life of each plant. The casks are constructed of steel-reinforced concrete, proven to safely protect the fuel under extreme conditions such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and explosions.

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.

Insulating oil

Substations and other facilities have electrical equipment that contains oil for its insulation properties. These facilities have procedures in place to prevent oil spills.