Most industries produce waste in one form or another, directly or indirectly. At NextEra Energy, we believe minimizing our waste footprint presents an opportunity to deliver outstanding value for our environment, customers, communities, employees and shareholders. We produce a variety of waste streams, including:
- Construction waste streams resulting from demolition or development.
- Hazardous and non-hazardous waste generated from operations.
- Various recyclable wastes from office buildings.
- Used nuclear fuel produced from reliable, emissions-free nuclear fleet operations.
All of these waste streams are managed in accordance with local, state and federal regulations.
At FPL, waste streams generated at power plants and operating centers are sent to the company's waste consolidation facility to be sorted. This operation is designed to look for opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle materials so that we minimize the waste that we must send to local landfills.
We believe that the best way to deliver value by minimizing our waste footprint begins with reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place. That's why we've:
- Modernized many of our facilities to reduce the amount of oil-ash generated.
- Banned the use of chlorinated solvents at our facilities.
- Established a program to replace substation and switchyard oil-filled breakers with gas-insulated equipment.
- Continued to phase out polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) equipment from the company's system -- currently, only eight known PCB transformers remain in our operations with plans to remove them during future plant maintenance.
We also have greatly reduced the amount of hazardous waste we generate. For example, at FPL, with the exception of the company's waste consolidation facility, each of our more than 80 operating facilities generate less than half the volume of a 55-gallon drum of hazardous waste every month.
Reuse and Recycle
We are committed to reducing our waste footprint across our fleet and actively seek opportunities to identify and implement reuse and recycling programs that result in environmental, social, and economic benefits. In 2019, our Corporate Recycling and Services (CRS) facility reconditioned and redirected nearly $5 million worth of hardware back into inventory, which helped to reduce the waste stream.
In addition, our investment recovery team, which oversees the release of surplus and dormant material and encourages redeployment to other plants for extended use where possible, engages a seven-step process for asset disposition when they reach the end-of-use stage: reuse, recondition, return, resell, reclaim, recycle and remove. A few of our reuse and recycling accomplishments for 2019 are below.
Used Nuclear Fuel
We're complying with all federal and state regulations to ensure that our used nuclear fuel is stored safely.
Used nuclear fuel, also referred to as spent fuel rods, is a byproduct of power generation at every nuclear power plant in the world, including NextEra Energy's five nuclear power plants. Spent uranium fuel rods comprise the majority of high-level waste, while low-level waste is generally considered to be any material that enters the containment area, including contaminated protective shoe covers and clothing, wiping rags, mops, filters, reactor water treatment residues, equipment and tools.
Currently, spent fuel is safely contained in spent fuel pools at nuclear power plant sites and then transferred to onsite dry storage systems -- a safe, secure, and well-proven technology that has been used for more than 20 years at more than 55 nuclear plant locations in the U.S. Dry storage facilities are heavily secured through a variety of proven measures, including high-tech security and surveillance systems, radiation monitoring, regular security patrols, as well as multiple levels of physical barriers. Dry storage has proven to be both secure and environmentally sound. The facilities are specifically designed and tested to provide protection from extreme natural events such as high winds and flooding associated with hurricanes, storm surges, heavy rain events, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes.
Low-level radioactive waste can be safely removed and disposed of offsite at two facilities within the U.S. NextEra Energy complies with all federal and state regulations to ensure that this waste is disposed safely.
Site Remediation and Restoration
When we build or acquire facilities, we identify and mitigate any issues regarding ground contamination or degradation.
Companies like ours that have been operating for many years or have acquired sites from other companies have a responsibility to comply with all laws and regulations concerning petroleum and chemical contamination and to prevent future occurrences. At NextEra Energy, we're committed to addressing these issues, so that our soil and groundwater are not degraded. Site remediation activities are conducted in compliance with all local, state and federal requirements. Remedial activities range from removing underground storage tanks to decommissioning assets as part of our efforts to modernize our power generation fleet. While remediation is often driven by regulation, we also look for opportunities to implement best practices that go beyond regulatory requirements.
In 2016, FPL instituted a soil recycling program. Excess soils are generated when facilities like electrical substations are newly constructed or expanded. In the past, the soils were generally sent to landfills with any contaminated soils that were removed. Now FPL tests the excess soils in an effort to identify clean soils that can be used where fill material is needed for other company projects. In 2019, the company reused nearly 27,000 tons of clean soil, saving more than $1,510,000 by reusing this valuable material in place of purchasing newly mined fill.
During the decommissioning of our older power generation fleet, we recycle materials whenever possible. For example, 21,000 tons of steel have been recovered and recycled from the older equipment at the Martin Terminal, Port of Palm Beach and Lauderdale Plant. Roughly 131,000 tons of concrete have been crushed and recycled. In addition, approximately 76,220 tons of petroleum-contaminated soil at the Lauderdale Plant was thermally treated to remove petroleum contaminants and certified for re-use.