Vattenfall is committed to working in accordance with the waste hierarchy and supporting development of a circular economy. Waste is identified, classified and managed within the framework of the applicable national laws. At the local level, various activities are conducted to prevent and reduce waste as well as to optimize reuse and recycling rates as far as possible.
Our waste is divided into three main categories:
- Non-hazardous waste.
- Hazardous waste.
- Radioactive waste.
Depending on different national legislation, some of the ash generated in our power plants falls under waste legislation. Fly ash from waste burning is qualified as hazardous waste.
Combustion of solid fuels and flue gas cleaning result in large amounts of ash and gypsum – they are considered by-products.
- Ash from coal-fired plants and gypsum from flue-gas desulphurisation are the most significant by-products in our operations. The gypsum is sold to Europe's gypsum and cement industry.
- Ash from Vattenfall's hard coal combustion is used in the construction industry and for road construction.
Reusing by-products – reducing resource consumption
We reuse ash and other by-products, which mean that there is less consumption of new resources. This also significantly reduces the amount of ash that has to be deposited.
- Most ash and mineral by-products from Vattenfall's plants are reused.
- Studies show that the risks associated with using ash as construction material are very small. Vattenfall undertakes research efforts together with the construction industry to improve the use of ash.
- Ash from waste burning is strictly regulated. Ash is reused to the greatest possible extent, and smaller fractions with high metal content are deposited at special sites.
- We strive to increase the reuse of ash by applying quality and environmental standards.
How we manage waste depends on the type of waste and regulation. We apply the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, recover) according to the EU Waste Framework Directive. We try to increase the reuse of by-products created by our operations.
- Both non-hazardous and hazardous waste is recovered or deposited.
- Waste from construction and the decommissioning of power plants, distribution grids, etc., is handled in accordance with the respective national legislation.
- We promote reuse and recycling of construction waste.
- Most waste from our administrative offices, such as paper, is recycled.
- Waste from IT is handled locally by the vendor of the equipment, or by specialised companies.
Vattenfall operates nuclear power plants in Sweden and Germany. It is the operator's responsibility to have reliable solutions for managing nuclear waste.
High-level, long-life radioactive waste, primarily consisting of spent nuclear fuel, must be carefully shielded during handling and transportation. It takes approximately 100,000 years for the radioactivity to decline to the level that occurs in the uranium ore from which the fuel was originally extracted.
Storage of nuclear waste
When the waste is stored, it is encapsulated to prohibit leakage. The type and location of storage depends on the radioactive level of the waste and its ability to generate heat. The entire disposal process is tightly regulated and monitored.