Waste and Chemical Management
We manage many types of waste resulting from the process of providing electricity, operating office buildings, and repairing and replacing equipment. We continue to reduce and divert waste from landfills through beneficial reuse or recycling.
The amount of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-containing equipment used across the company continues to decline. PCBs, which are known to have adverse health effects, have not been used in new electrical equipment in the U.S. for more than 37 years but are present in some of our older transformers and other pieces of electric equipment. We removed and recycled approximately 41,000 pieces of electrical equipment in 2017.
While we had 1,482 transmission and distribution equipment oil spills in 2017, similar to the number of spills in 2016, only one of the spills in 2017 contained greater than 500 parts per million (ppm) PCBs. Most spills are caused by severe weather and public vehicle accidents that damage the equipment. Regardless of the cause, we respond to each spill on an around-the-clock basis to clean up the materials released, notify regulatory agencies where required, and restore areas to pre-spill conditions.
During 2017, the waste we recycled included approximately 512,500 pounds of paper and mixed office waste; 33.5 million pounds of scrap metal; 37,000 pounds of light bulbs; 334,000 pounds of batteries; and more than 27,000 pounds of electronic equipment, such as computers and phones. We also recycled about 423,600 gallons of used oil. These numbers are not all-inclusive but are considered good estimates of waste management across AEP and indicate progress in reducing waste.
Nuclear Waste Management
The Department of Energy oversees permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and historically has charged fees to plant owners for this disposal. However, the government has stopped developing the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada, leaving generators with no place for permanent disposal.
In 2012, the Cook Plant began a program of loading spent nuclear fuel into dry casks. Since the program began, a total of 28 dry casks have been loaded into storage.
Indiana Michigan Power owns and operates the two-unit Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant in Michigan, with a generating capacity of 2,278 MW of electricity. Like the rest of the nuclear industry, we face a significant future financial commitment to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. We need a national solution for the long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel, which should be part of a national energy plan.
The uncertainty associated with long-term storage has placed the burden of interim storage on each nuclear facility. AEP is addressing this issue on the assumption that a workable off-site solution will not exist before the current operating licenses for both Cook units expire in 2034 and 2037.
In 2012, the Cook Plant began a program of loading spent nuclear fuel into dry casks. Dry cask storage loading campaigns are scheduled every three years. The casks (32 spent nuclear fuel assemblies contained within each dry cask) are designed to withstand tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, sabotage, missiles, aircraft and temperature extremes. They are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and meet all applicable security, environmental and radiological requirements.
Without removal of the used-fuel assemblies, the spent fuel pool would have reached capacity in 2014, forcing shutdown of one or both Cook units. Since the program began, a total of 28 dry casks have been loaded into storage. The third dry cask loading of an additional 16 casks is expected to occur in 2018. The current cask storage facility is designed to store 94 casks for a total of 3,008 spent nuclear fuel assemblies. This would support the operation of both units through the current operating license dates of 2034 for Unit 1 and 2037 for Unit 2. The pad could be expanded to facilitate removal of all fuel assemblies from the plant’s spent fuel pool and full decommissioning of both units.
Nuclear plant operators are required to maintain a plant decommissioning trust fund to safely decommission and decontaminate the plant upon closure. At the end of 2017, the trust fund balance for the Cook Plant was approximately $2.2 billion.