AEP Sustainability - Waste Management

Waste Management & Recycling

We manage many types of waste resulting from the process of providing electricity, operating office buildings, construction, and repairing and replacing equipment. We continue to make progress to standardize and streamline the collection of waste data. Through this process, we plan to identify improvement areas to further reduce and divert waste from landfills through beneficial reuse or recycling. For example, over the past four years, AEP has recycled more than 8,300 tons of wood waste. On average, this represents approximately 21% of our annual wood waste. We leverage a third-party salvage company to pick up wood waste, such as old or damaged poles or crossarms at our service centers, which are then reused to make fences or barns.

We continue to see a decline in the amount of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-containing equipment used across the company. PCBs, which are known to have adverse health effects, have not been used in new electrical equipment in the U.S. since 1979 but may be present in older transformers and other pieces of electric equipment. We removed and recycled approximately 24,400 pieces of electrical equipment in 2021, of which 979 contained PCBs at regulated levels.

While we had approximately 1,150 transmission and distribution equipment oil spills in 2021, only one of the spills contained PCBs above EPA’s most stringently regulated level. Most spills are caused by severe weather and public vehicle accidents that damage the equipment. Regardless of the cause, we respond immediately to each spill to clean up the materials released, notify regulatory agencies as required, and restore areas to pre-spill conditions.

We report through the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program, part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPCRA requires companies with 10 or more employees, in certain industries, to collect and publicly disclose information about how they manufacture, process, or use any of nearly 650 chemicals on a special list developed by the U.S. EPA. Read more on our TRI website.

AEP manages many types of waste resulting from the process of providing electricity, operating office buildings, construction, and repairing and replacing equipment.

Coal Combustion Residuals

Coal ash and flue gas desulfurization material (scrubber by-product) continue to be the subject of additional federal and state rulemaking. These coal combustion residuals (CCRs) are the solid material left over from the use of coal in generating electricity and represent AEP’s single largest waste stream.

As part of our ongoing compliance program, we continue implementing projects to close existing CCR impoundments and convert to dry ash handling systems. Learn more about our CCR Rule Implementation Plans and review our compliance reports on our CCR website.

Beneficial Use

CCRs have long been approved for use in concrete, wallboard and a wide variety of construction materials. While this benefits other industries, it also provides a source of environmental and financial benefits to us. By diverting CCRs to beneficial reuses, we are reducing the need for additional waste disposal. In 2021, we generated more than 3.4 million tons of CCRs and were able to beneficially use more than 1 million tons, or 31% of the total produced. Beneficial use of CCRs avoided more than $17.8 million in disposal costs in 2021 and generated approximately $12 million in revenues.

Nuclear Waste Management

The U.S. Department of Energy oversees permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and historically has charged fees to plant owners for this disposal. However, following the government’s decision to cease development of the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada, nuclear generators no longer have a place for permanent disposal.

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 places the burden of interim storage on each nuclear facility. We are addressing this issue through dry cask storage on the assumption that a workable off-site solution will not exist before the current operating licenses for both Donald C. Cook nuclear units expire in 2034 and 2037.

In 2012, the Cook Plant in Bridgman, Michigan, began a program of loading spent nuclear fuel into dry casks. The latest loading campaign took place in 2021, bringing the total to 57 dry casks that have been loaded into storage. The next loading campaign will occur in 2024. The casks can withstand tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, sabotage, missiles, aircraft and temperature extremes. Licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the casks meet all applicable security, environmental and radiological requirements.

The current cask storage facility can store 94 casks, or 3,008 spent nuclear fuel assemblies. This would support the operation of both units through their current operating licenses. Expansion of the pad is possible to facilitate removal of all fuel assemblies from the plant’s spent fuel pool and full decommissioning of both units. At the end of 2021, the trust fund balance to eventually decommission the Cook Plant was approximately $3.5 billion.

AEP's current spent nuclear fuel cask storage facility can store 94 casks, or 3,008 spent nuclear fuel assemblies.