Management of waste and by-products
Vattenfall’s operations generate various types of waste and by-product. Nuclear power plants generate radioactive waste. Combustion of solid fuels such as coal, biomass and waste generate ashes and mineral by-products, such as gypsum, which can be re-used.
Vattenfall applies the waste hierarchy according to the EU Waste Framework Directive. Vattenfall continuously investigates ways to prevent the generation of waste. For that purpose we try to increase the re-use of by-products created by our operations.
Waste from construction and the decommissioning of power plants, distribution grids, etc. is handled according to the respective national legislation. Vattenfall strives to stimulate re-use and recycling of construction waste. Hazardous waste is treated according to permits and regulations.
The most significant by-products are ashes and FGD gypsum from coal-fired power plants. Gypsum is sold to Europe’s gypsum and cement industry. Ashes from lignite-fired power plants are mainly used in the open-cast mining area for landscaping in the post-mining environment. Ashes from our hard coal combustion are used in the construction industry and for road construction. It is as well possible to re-use ashes from biomass co-firing up to 50%.
When by-products are substituted for other materials in the industry, it leads to less consumption of primary resources. The re-use of ashes significantly reduces the amount of ashes that needs to be deposited as waste. Most ashes and mineral residues from Vattenfall plants are re-used, and increased re-use is encouraged. Studies show that the risks associated with using ashes as construction material are very small.
Some ashes need stricter handling, however. Ashes from waste incineration are strictly regulated. Ashes are re-used to the greatest possible extent, and smaller fractions with high metal content are deposited at special sites.
Responsible handling of nuclear waste
Vattenfall has nuclear power plants in Sweden and Germany. The operator has the responsibility to provide reliable and acceptable solutions for managing nuclear waste. High-level long-lived radioactive waste, which consists primarily of spent nuclear fuel, must be carefully shielded during handling and transportation. It takes several thousand years for the radioactivity to decline, depending on the half-life, to the level that occurs in the uranium ore from which the fuel was originally extracted.
Vattenfall supports research and development on final disposal solutions for radioactive waste, a process that is conducted according to different time plans in Sweden and Germany. In Sweden, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), has developed a solution for a final repository for spent nuclear fuel. SKB is jointly owned by Sweden’s nuclear power operators. In 2011 SKB applied for the permits needed for the final repository, in accordance with the Swedish Environmental Code.
Read more tin the CSR report, page 14-15.
CSR report 2011 (PDF 4 MB)