West Valley: Regulatory Background and EIS Phases
There are many state and federal “regulatory” agencies with authority over aspects of the West Valley site. The site is owned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority [NYSERDA]. The NYS Departments of Environmental Conservation [DEC] and Health [DOH] have responsibilities. The US Department of Energy [DOE] was tasked under the 1980 West Valley Demonstration Project Act to clean up the reprocessing mess at the site. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has an advisory role and DOE is answerable to the US Environmental Protection Agency. This was summarized in a report by the Government Accounting Office in 2001.
DOE and NYSERDA split the 1996 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on cleanup of the West Valley site into two separate Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). The draft of the second EIS was out for public comment in 2007 the decision in 2010 was to have PHASED DECISION MAKING AT WEST VALLEY.
During Phase 1, from 2010 to approximately 2020, the Record of Decision stated, DOE and NYSERDA were to carry out clean up operations that they agreed are necessary and they would hire experts to help study, for 10 years, issues upon which they disagree such as the exhumation of the high level radioactive waste tanks, laden with high level sludge from reprocessing. Phase 1 provided an approximately 10 year delay for additional information to be gathered to make important final decisions by ~2020.
In preparation for the 2010 EIS public comment period, an independent Full Cost Accounting Study, funded by the NYS Senate, was carried out to evaluate the long-term economic consequences of the various options for final disposition of the site. This precedent-setting, important study was designed to help inform potentially irreversible decisions on final site disposition that will impact the whole bioregion– local and downstream/downwind communities, the State of NY, Seneca Nation and Canada, Great Lakes and St Lawrence Seaway, etc– for generations to come.
The study concluded that is cheaper and safer to exhume the waste at West Valley sooner rather than later, when, if even a hundredth of the radioactivity were to leak out into the WNY drinking water supply, would triple the cleanup costs.
In Feb 21, 2018 the DOE and NYSERDA published notice of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on West Valley announcing public hearings and a comment deadline of 60 days. Western New Yorkers, members of the Seneca Nation and Canadian neighbors mobilized, once again demanding the full cleanup of the entire West Valley Nuclear Waste Site.
Explore the comments, events, and actions from the 2018 West Valley hearings.
Waste Incidental to Reprocessing (WIR)
Like at other sites in the US (Hanford, WA; Savannah River SC; Idaho National Lab, ID) where irradiated nuclear fuel was reprocessed, the Department of Energy would like to declassify the high level radioactive waste that resulted. High level nuclear waste is required by law to be disposed of in a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)-licensed, deep geological repository that meets Environmental Protection Agency standards. DOE’s goal is to avoid those requirements by pretending the waste is not high level…working to declassify it so it can remain in place, threatening the water supplies downstream at all such locations. There is a national campaign against declassifying high level reprocessing waste to WIR—Waste Incidental to Reprocessing but DOE is intent on proceeding.