Duke Announces Closure of Riverbend Steam Station
Duke Energy announced that they will be closing the Riverbend (coal-fired) Steam Station ahead of schedule. They indicated that the plant will close by April 1, 2013. This is great news for the Catawba River and the air in the Charlotte region because the Riverbend power plant is one of the oldest and dirtiest plants in the Duke Energy system. We applaud Duke for the decision to close the plant early.
Duke Energy has been planning for several years to retire Buck Steam Station Units 5 and 6 (in the Yadkin River Basin) and Riverbend Steam Station Units 4-7 (in the Catawba River Basin). Until recently, the plan was to close the units in April 2015 because Duke has chosen not to bring them into compliance with federal environmental regulations that apply to these facilities in 2015. Duke Energy announced today (February 1, 2013) that they are accelerating the retirement of those units to April 1 of 2013 (see Duke Energy news release).
These units have been operating infrequently in recent years and were expected to operate even less so because of new, more efficient plants that were recently completed. Other factors contributing to these accelerated retirements are low natural gas prices and concerns about the health impacts of these facilities.
Once the units officially retire, attention and planning will turn to decommissioning. Decommissioning is a comprehensive and methodical process that is likely to take several years and involve decisions about what to do with the structures, the cleanup of disposal sites on the property (including ash ponds), and ongoing monitoring of storm water and groundwater leaving the site. Duke Energy indicates that "the long-term vision for retired units across our system is to return them to ground-level."
With respect to the closure and cleanup of the ash ponds, Duke has also indicated that:
"We plan to close the ash basins once they are no longer needed, in close coordination with state regulators. This will be conducted through deliberate engineering and will comply with all state and federal regulations. We are evaluating multiple closure options for the ash basins across our fleet to ensure we select methods that provide high water quality protection, while being as cost-effective as possible for our customers."
At Catawba Riverkeeper, we don't know exactly what Duke is proposing to do to close the ash ponds or the proposed timetable for closure, but we will continue to try to work with Duke, local citizens, and other entities interested in the health of our water, to make sure that the ash ponds do not remain as a threat to the health of our drinking water and Mountain Island Lake, and that there is ongoing monitoring of the discharges from the site.
Catawba Riverkeeper Rick Gaskins indicated that “Catawba Riverkeeper plans to continue its monitoring of the unpermitted seeps from the coal ash ponds and the ambient water in the drinking water reservoirs downstream from the coal ash ponds.”
For information about past monitoring activities, go to the following links:
Rick also indicated that “the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is particularly concerned that Duke might propose to permanently leave the coal ash in the existing ash ponds on the banks of Mountain Island Lake, which would mean that the ash and continued seepage from the ash ponds will continue to pose a threat to drinking water supplies in the Charlotte area." Even if the ash ponds were capped, we believe that there would be significant health risks from "closing the ash ponds in place."