NIRS West Valley Update – September 2022
Demolition of Reprocessing Building (MPPB) could begin Sept 2022
Demolition of Highly Radioactive West Valley Building, a 40 month process
Government Refuses to Do Real-Time Monitoring and Reporting Offsite
The good news is that visible changes are underway at the West Valley Nuclear Site. Demolishing the above ground part of the nuclear reprocessing building is an important step in a long series of clean up operations.
The challenging news is that we may never know how much invisible radioactivity is dispersed in the NY-OH-PA-Canada region and beyond as a result because the demolition will be done in open air without real-time offsite monitoring.
It is disappointing to see that costs are superseding precaution in the protection of the air we breathe, the people, farmland, rivers and environment. Open air demolition will be done instead of enclosing the most radioactive rooms while taking them down. Will cost be the driver when buried waste is dug up and other clean-up actions continue?
Enormous gratitude is owed to the workers who have been cleaning out the building, among the most radioactive in the whole nuclear power and weapons complex. For years they have been removing much of the radioactivity in the hundreds of rooms, many that were remote access only during reprocessing years.
As of September 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) has removed most of the other buildings at West Valley and is about to demolish the hottest most radioactive one, the Main Plant Process Building (MPPB). It will be taken down to ground level over the next few months, maybe years. The below grade pipes and rooms will remain until a future contract. No effort will be made at this point to remove the immensely high-level liquid radioactive spill from the 1960s in the basement of the building, the source of the dangerous radioactive strontium plume that is migrating into groundwater and streams that run into creeks that flow into Lake Erie upstream of drinking water intakes. The barrier built to filter that water is nearing the end of its planned lifespan.
The demolitions are being done without an enclosure. There is no real time off-site air monitoring of radioactive dust or gasses which could help determine whether, where and how much radioactivity is dispersing throughout the region. DOE covered nuclear decommissioning projects in Oak Ridge TN and Niskayuna NY. No meaningful information on the amount of radioactivity remaining in the building has been provided to the public. ALSO note that DOE has never voluntarily admitted it released radioactivity anywhere…despite having done so.
There is minimal offsite monitoring and no real time reporting. Independent air monitoring by the State of Washington twice detected plutonium offsite the Hanford Nuclear Site which halted DOE activities until the problem was found and corrected. At Niskayuna NY an enclosure was required during decommissioning of the plutonium facility but not until AFTER radioactivity was detected offsite. Let’s do it preventatively at West Valley.
Despite repeated requests, there has been no report to the public revealing how much radioactivity remains in the West Valley reprocessing building, just estimates and projections. 16 chest-high monitoring stations ring the site a mile away but reporting from those will not be reported publicly until September of the next year in DOE’s Annual Site Environmental Report.
Letter: 25 organizations are calling on Gov. Hochul and NY State legislative leaders to enclose the building during demolition, monitor offsite and report publicly in real-time, keep all documents and records in accessible public files and make NYS assert all the authority it has to protect the public.
Presenters: Charley Bowman, WNY Peace Center and Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
July 27, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) – Another Avenue to Demand Full Cleanup!
Four packed public hearings were held in 2018 on the Scope for the Environmental Impact Statement. The NYS “Scope” was finally released in 2022. DOE will not tell what its scope will be.
Massive public input will be needed for the Draft SEIS Comment Period and Hearings predicted to be held in 2023.